Chase Elliott and his team struggled to communicate with each other on their radio during Sunday’s race at Kansas.
Elliott was unable to hear either his crew chief or spotter throughout much of the race. He finished sixth and said he didn’t think the problems with the radio impacted his finishing position.
“Yeah, it wasn’t a massive deal,” Elliott said after the race. “The good news was they could hear me, I just couldn’t hear them once we went green. Once we kind of had the situation understood, that they could hear me and I just couldn’t hear them, that helped, obviously. And then from there, I just kind of knew what to expect. I was just trying to pay attention to lap count and when everybody else was going to start pitting or not. But I don’t think it ultimately hindered our performance at all.”
The team tried multiple times to fix Elliott’s radio. While there were times that Elliott could briefly hear his team, the problem was never actually resolved. And that problem was likely in violation of NASCAR rules.
According to NASCAR’s rulebook, teams are required to have a working radio that allows a crew chief and spotter to have two-way communications with the driver. There’s no clear written threshold in the rule for how often that radio has to be working during a race — radio problems are not all that uncommon in NASCAR. But it’s likely that “required” in the NASCAR rulebook doesn’t have much leniency.
Monday morning, NASCAR vice president Scott Miller said on the NASCAR channel on SiriusXM that NASCAR “might have missed” forcing Elliott’s team to fix his radio. Had Elliott’s team been told by NASCAR to fix the radio, the team would have lost numerous positions on pit road as a result of the work.
ICYMI: @NASCAR's Scott Miller joined #TMDNASCAR and admitted @NASCAR might have erred in their decision to let @chaseelliott stay on track during his radio issues yesterday at @kansasspeedway pic.twitter.com/Wa1HfJCLvn
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) October 19, 2020
“We did get word there was a potential problem and then they had the first pit stop and when we listened to some of the dialogue back and forth on the scanner it seemed as though Chase was communicating with his crew chief about the car and there was some dialogue back. So we felt like they were in communication with one another.”
“Obviously by his interview at the end of the race we were wrong about that. But that’s one of those things about officiating these races; we make decisions and we live with them and we have to move on to the next race. So maybe we missed that one and maybe we should’ve had him in there, because they’re supposed to have all that communication.”
Since Elliott’s team never had to fully fix the radio, Elliott never lost a lot of track position on pit road. That allowed him to run in the top 10 for most of the race and ultimately finish sixth.
Elliott also won the first stage of the race and scored 47 points. Only Kevin Harvick — who had 48 — scored more points than Elliott did. That’s pivotal for the playoffs. With Joey Logano’s win on Sunday, Elliott is just eight points behind Brad Keselowski for the final provisional spot in the title race with two races to go in the third round.
Had NASCAR forced Elliott’s team to fix the radio, there’s a very good chance that Elliott would have scored at least a handful of points fewer throughout the course of the race. And if Elliott makes it to the final round for the first time in his career via the points standings and not a win over the next two weekends, NASCAR’s leniency regarding his radio could be a big reason why.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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