[adinserter block="13"]

Why Denny Hamlin’s Richmond race win sparked so much debate

Denny Hamlin won for a second time in the 2024 NASCAR season but his victory in Richmond wasn't without controversy


Overtime in NASCAR can be a tense moment for drivers as they have just two laps (or more if a caution occurs before the white flag) to make a final charge for the win, and one has to be almost perfect to have a shot. On the other hand, Denny Hamlin may, or may not, have been too eager to win last Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.

As he led the field to the green flag to begin overtime, Hamlin noticeably restarted just a moment quicker than his Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Martin Truex Jr., who restarted next to him on the front row, before both cars entered the marked restart zone. Introduced in 2013 and stretching a few meters before the start/finish line, cars must be within the restart zone before they can fully accelerate. If a car went too soon before that, they would receive a penalty.

While Hamlin certainly earned his spot in first place for overtime as he was leading when Kyle Larson was spun by Bubba Wallace with two laps remaining to set up overtime, those like Truex felt he moved far too soon and should have been penalised. Video replay also validated their suspicions as did telemetry data on Hamlin’s car.

However, NASCAR ultimately decided against investigating the restart, which the sanctioning body justified as simply not having enough time to launch a proper review at that moment; Richmond is a short track at just .750 miles in length, with average lap times ranging between 20 and 22 seconds.

Since overtime is only two laps long, NASCAR would have had less than a minute to make a final judgment. While they could have still waited to declare a race winner official, as they did following the three-wide finish at Atlanta in March, there were too many circumstances going on that the thought may have not crossed their mind.

With officials not looking into the restart, Hamlin simply beat Truex in Turn 1 to score his second win of the 2024 Cup Series season, second in a row (incidentally also at a short track), and fifth at his home circuit.

“I went right at it, for sure,” said Hamlin in his post-race press conference. “I did that because I saw those guys rolling to me. The #22 (Joey Logano) was laying back. The #19 (Truex) was rolling a couple miles an hour quicker than I was. I wasn’t going to let them have an advantage that my team earned on pit road. Certainly made sure I went to my nose, got there, but I took off right away. Still, we were side by side down the water into Turn 1.”

The controversy continued for days

Hamlin, ever the outspoken figure, further fanned the flames on social media as fans and industry continued to debate the restart.

“I sure wish someone would come out with a new paint scheme or something,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter) two days after the race. “Ain’t y’all tired of talking about the same thing for 48 hours now? Our team won the race because of the pit crew. Not the restart. Y’all just sour.”

A postmortem review of the race by NASCAR subsequently confirmed everyone’s suspicions that Hamlin restarted too soon. Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer said on Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there was “no doubt he rolled early.” Still, he defended not making a decision due to the timing as a “bang-bang call.”

“We’re a live sporting event,” Sawyer stated. “We don’t have the luxury of a timeout, and go to the sidelines, and review it, and make that call. If this happens at Lap 10 or 50 or 300, the call could have been different. If I’m a competitor, I wouldn’t be playing that game every week.”

Even Hamlin admitted to it on his Actions Detrimental podcast, saying he went “pretty early in the zone,” but stressed that what was visible to the naked eye from the outside did not reflect his actual behaviour inside the car.

“If they know you’re going to fire in a spot, they can actually fire before you,” Hamlin explained. “I concede that on TV, it looks worse than what it felt like in the car. A lot of the reason of that is that when I’m restarting the race, I’m not looking at the flagman, I’m not looking at my dash, I’m not looking at anything. All I’m looking at is my mirror and my side peripheral.”

Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen is Total-Motorsport.com's resident NASCAR aficionado and is also the off-road reporter for The Checkered Flag.
- Advertisment -


Pascal Wehrlein of Porsche during 2024 Shanghai E-Prix | Formula E

Pascal Wehrlein: Shanghai circuit doesn’t suit Formula E

Pascal Wehrlein was less than impressed with Formula E’s Shanghai debut following a Shanghai E-Prix determined by energy saving...
Nico Hulkenberg during 2024 Monaco GP qualifying | Haas F1 Team / LAT Images

Both Haas drivers disqualified in Monaco after using non-compliant part

Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg have been disqualified from the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix Qualifying classification for...
Charles Leclerc after 2024 Monaco GP Qualifying | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Charles Leclerc reveals last-minute issue almost derailed dream Monaco pole positon

Charles Leclerc will aim to make it third time lucky at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix having failing to...
Max Verstappen in the garage during practice ahead of 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen slams Red Bull ‘go kart’ after painful Monaco GP qualifying

Max Verstappen has revealed the extent of his issues with his Red Bull car left him feeling he was...
Lando Norris during the 2024 Monaco GP | McLaren

‘It shouldn’t happen in F1’ – Lando Norris blasts Monaco for mistake that almost...

Lando Norris lambasted organisers of the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix for a sticker issue that almost dumped him out...
Sergio Perez looks on in qualifying for the 2024 Monaco GP | Mark Thompson/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez finds scapegoat for ‘completely disastrous’ Monaco GP Q1 exit

Sergio Perez believes he would've reached Q2 if he hadn't encountered traffic on his final Q1 lap, as he...
Lewis Hamilton at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Mercedes / LAT Images

Lewis Hamilton lost for answers after ‘frustrating’ Monaco GP qualifying

Lewis Hamilton expressed his "frustration" with Mercedes' qualifying pace and admitted he was unable to explain their lack of...
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Christian Horner explains where Red Bull struggled after dismal Monaco GP qualifying

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has conceded their chances of victory at the Formula 1 2024 Monaco Grand Prix...
Charles Leclerc during 2024 Monaco GP during practice | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Charles Leclerc denies Verstappen historic pole in breathless Monaco GP qualifying

Charles Leclerc will start the Formula 1 2024 Monaco Grand Prix at the front of the grid after the...
Oscar Piastri during the 2024 Monaco GP | McLaren

F1 2024 Monaco GP – Qualifying Results

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc kept his cool in Qualifying after dominating the weekend so far, and claimed pole position...
- Advertisment -