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NASCAR says none of its officials saw William Byron intentionally spin Denny Hamlin under caution

NASCAR vice president Scott Miller made a bizarre admission in the hours after the Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday night.

William Byron spun out Denny Hamlin under caution during the final stage of the race. Byron was upset at Hamlin because he felt Hamlin didn’t leave him any room off Turn 2 under green a few laps earlier. And in the moments after leader Martin Truex Jr. crashed out of the race because of a tire failure, Byron bumped Hamlin into the grass.

NASCAR didn’t penalize Byron for the incident nor did they let Hamlin keep his spot in the top five after the spin. NASCAR instead forced Hamlin to line up behind the cars that had passed him under caution because of the spin. And Miller said after the race that NASCAR made the scoring decisions it did because race officials simply didn’t see what transpired between Hamlin and Byron under caution.

“We were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said after the race. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass and by the time we got to a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it we’d gone back to green.”

If you take Miller’s statement at face value — and there’s no reason to believe he’s not telling the truth — it’s a shocking admission of officiating ignorance that’s quite frankly inexplicable. While it’s plausible that NASCAR officials missed Byron spinning Hamlin in real time while they were focused on getting crews over to Truex’s wrecked car, it seems implausible that they didn’t see the incident in the moments after it happened.

NBC Sports showed numerous replays of the spin during the caution flag. No NASCAR official had access to a television feed of the race or even the sanctioning body’s own Twitter feed? NASCAR even tweeted out a replay itself.

And even if a NASCAR official didn’t have access to a television, how did no one in race control not use some common sense and attempt to figure out why Hamlin’s car was in the grass? Hamlin showing his displeasure with Byron after the incident by driving very close to Byron’s car wasn’t a tip-off?

Also, Hamlin’s crew immediately started lobbying over the radio for Hamlin’s car to be reinstated where it was on the track before the spin. That too didn’t tip off anyone in race control to what had happened on the track?

It also makes little sense for Miller’s answer to serve as a cover for another reason why NASCAR didn’t penalize Byron or give Hamlin his spot back. The explanation makes NASCAR’s officials look foolish at best and incompetent at worst. It’s hard to figure out a more damning explanation for what happened on Sunday night than what Miller gave to reporters and it's an explanation that can make you wonder if NASCAR's officiating processes need to be totally overhauled.

NASCAR’s seeming inability to see what happened between the two drivers under caution benefitted Byron’s race finish and hurt Hamlin’s. Hamlin was knocked out of the top 10 because of the spin and came back to finish 10th in the 60 laps after the caution. Byron finished seventh and said after the race that while he didn’t mean to spin Hamlin, he was intentionally bumping him out of frustration.

“I mean, obviously, yeah, I went to go show my displeasure. I didn't mean to hit him and spin him out,” Byron said.

Hamlin, meanwhile, was incredulous on Twitter after the race at Miller’s explanation.

Byron’s seventh-place finish means he’s third in the points standings and 13 points behind points leader Joey Logano unless NASCAR decides to penalize him during the week for his maneuver. Hamlin Is sixth in the standings and 22 points out of the lead. The top eight drivers in the standings move on to the third round of the playoffs after the remaining two second-round races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 25: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, spins into the infield grass  at Texas Motor Speedway on September 25, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas NASCAR. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin found himself in the grass after William Byron spun him out under caution during Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)