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‘The King’ Comes to Denny Hamlin’s Rescue After Controversial Richmond Restart Draws Ire

Published 04/02/2024, 9:00 PM EDT

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The NASCAR community had a lot to say about Sunday’s Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway. While the drivers did their bit in racing hard to the finish line, it was the controversial calls made by the officials that became the hot take after Denny Hamlin’s winning run at the race track. It all started with Kyle Busch crashing his car into the wall during the final few laps, with Martin Truex Jr in the lead.

Although Busch managed to come out of the incident unscathed and without wrecking other cars, officials were quick to flag caution. This then led to another major controversial call of allowing Hamlin to jump the restart and piping his teammate for his second win of the season. Fans were quick to highlight the error and even labeled Hamlin a cheater. While there have been hot takes on the incident, Richard Petty has now chimed in with his response.

Richard Petty shares his unpopular opinion about Hamlin’s controversial restart

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Coming out of the pit box, Denny Hamlin already had an advantage over Martin Truex Jr as he was the one dictating the pace while everyone else was playing a guessing game. However, the scenario was different in this instance, as Hamlin explained that he saw #22 and #19 cars rolling quicker than his car, and he was not going to concede his advantage.

The situation was better explained by “The King.” He stated that given the late restart in overtime, officials were put in a tough spot to make a judgment call, and for this reason, they decided not to intervene. “Well, I think he started a little early. You know, from that standpoint, when you get down and you’ve done run a race that long, it’s hard to make a judgement call.”

He went on to add that had this been the case earlier in the race, officials would have made the call to reprimand the driver. But given that the race was in the climax phase, the officials played it safe and let Hamlin off the hook. “If that had been the first of the race, they could’ve probably made a judgment call, but under those circumstances, they were just trying to get the race over with.”

A similar argument was made by Elton Swayer, who agreed that Denny Hamlin made the jump in the restart but officials could not intervene late in the race.

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NASCAR shares its verdict on the late controversial restart at Richmond

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NASCAR, like any other sport, has an officiating system, but when it comes to reviewing a close call like a late restart, they have to make a sound call that does not take away from the live racing event. Hamlin knew that, given the circumstances of the race, officials wouldn’t penalize him, so he took a chance by dashing out quicker than the rest of the field. A trick that worked wonders for him, while it was an unsavory defeat for his teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Sharing NASCAR’s position on the whole dramatic incident, VP competition of NASCAR, Elton Swayer, via SiriusXM, said, “And as I looked at it yesterday, multiple times, there’s no doubt he rolled early. And again, it’s a bang-bang call, it’s at the end of the race. We’re a live sporting event. We don’t have the luxury of a timeout, and go to the sideline and review it and make that call. If this happens at lap 10 or 50 or 300, the call could have been different.”

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Did Denny Hamlin’s Unprecedented Stardom Rigged NASCAR’s Disputed Decision at Richmond?

Denny Hamlin was lucky to have come out of this unscathed, but given that he has played this trick already, the officials will now keep an eye out for further such incidents.

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Written by:

Chintan Devgania

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Chintan Mahesh Devgania is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As someone who likes to dive deep into the sport, he often takes up less explored topics to eventually see them make their way into top stories. His report on Toyota’s young recruit, Jade Avedisian, sharing her thoughts on Late Model Racing, was an example of that.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta