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NASCAR Jumped the Line with Richmond Non-Call

2024 Cup Richmond I Denny Hamlin victorious (Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images via NASCAR Media)

Did he stay or did he go? After a caution flew for a spinning Kyle Larson with just a handful of laps remaining in the 2024 Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, some drivers had a second chance.

Martin Truex Jr. had a solid lead, and while both Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin were chipping away at his lead, Truex looked to have the race in hand as the leaders worked through lapped traffic.

But when Bubba Wallace got into Larson and sent Larson around, the caution would, at the very least, close the gap on a restart. Instead, when the leaders came to pit road for tires, Hamlin beat Truex out of the pits. And in a two-lap overtime shootout, Hamlin drove away to the win.

But was the restart clean?

At first, there was no thought otherwise—the FOX broadcast didn’t show the cars coming to the restart zone. 

Then came questions: was the restart clean? Did Hamlin jump the start and go too early? Did Truex lay back to make it look like that?

In the clip, Hamlin moved about three-quarters of a car length ahead of Truex by the time he entered the restart zone, which is marked on the track. In this view, it’s pretty apparent that Truex doesn’t back up because the cars behind him don’t stack up.

That leaves us with Hamlin jumping the start.

Here’s the restart from Truex’s in-car camera.

Hamlin certainly appears to accelerate before the zone.

From Hamlin’s in-car:

It’s not as obvious, but it’s still there.

Yeah, Hamlin went early.

Why, then, did NASCAR allow it, declining a full review, though the sanctioning body said it looked at the tape?

The conspiracy theories got laid on pretty thick on social channels afterward: NASCAR favored Toyota. NASCAR favored Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin is the Golden Boy for NASCAR this year. NASCAR didn’t want Team Penske/Ford/Logano/Truex to win. 

It’s probably a whole lot simpler than that.

It was an overtime restart and NASCAR missed the boat. What should have happened was an immediate yellow flag as soon as Hamlin restarted the race. Two laps at Richmond is not a lot of time to make a call and instead of throwing the flag and taking time to review it correctly, NASCAR missed the opportunity.

NASCAR actually flubbed the whole thing several laps earlier with the Larson caution. Larson spun (no, Wallace didn’t do it intentionally), but gathered it in quickly. He barely lost any track position and didn’t hit anything. Race control was too…

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