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NASCAR official details Denny Hamlin Richmond restart decision

Elton Sawyer warned leaders against taking any more

NASCAR: Toyota Owners 400
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Had Denny Hamlin launched where he did on the final restart earlier in the race, “the call could have been different,” said one of NASCAR’s leading competition officials.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition fielded questions about the topic during his weekly SiriusXM Radio segment on Tuesday and said ‘there is no doubt he rolled early’ for the restart.

“It’s a bang-bang call,” he said on if to penalize a driver for a restart violation. “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, you know, the call could have been different. If I’m a competitor, I wouldn’t be playing that game every week. Sometimes you get the call that goes in your favor, sometimes you don’t.”

Sawyer said that officials have more time to examine calls that take place during races.

“You make the call and at that point in time in the race (at the end), there’s not a lot of opportunity there to undo that — but you want to make sure you get it right,” Sawyer said. “Because he was the leader, he did get some of that benefit. If he’s not the leader, then it’s a whole different conversation that we’re having.”

Rule of the Cup Rule Book states: “The initial start and all restarts shall be initiated within the restart zone on the racetrack. Double red lines on the outer wall designate the start of the restart zone. If the lead vehicle does not restart by the time it reaches the exit of the restart zone, designated by a single red line on the outer wall, the starter will initiate or restart the Race.”

Section 8.5.4.D of the Cup Rule Book states: “The Race leader is the control vehicle for each restart.”

Sawyer said Hamlin earned the right to be the control car and that the restarts will continue to be officiated in this manner.

“The leader has the right to start within that zone. Obviously, Denny took the liberties of going a little bit early there.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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