By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – The temperatures in Texas weren’t the only things that were heated after Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, so were Denny Hamlin and William Byron after their run-in during the marathon race.
It all started as the two were battling off Turn 2 with 73 laps to go, when they touched coming off the corner, causing Byron to sideswipe the wall. Hamlin took the position as a result, while Byron was able to recover quickly to slot in behind Hamlin.
When Martin Truex, Jr. spun from the lead as a result of a blown tire on lap 269, Byron was directly behind Hamlin and retaliated, running into the back of Hamlin and sending his No. 11 Toyota for a spin through the infield grass on the frontstretch.
Hamlin was able to get back going in short order and attempted to take his position back before the spin, but NASCAR ultimately ruled he had to fall in line where he rejoined the running order.
Though the two found themselves lined up behind one another during a later restart, neither took any further action on track as Byron finished the night in eighth place and Hamlin rounded out the top-10 with a 10th place finish.
Afterwards, Byron noted that his move to spin out Hamlin was his way of sending a message that he was not going to stand for someone taking advantage of him.
“He ran me out of room and bent the toe link. We are lucky we finished. It was really hard contact…it wasn’t like a light contact or something like that.
“I went to go show my displeasure and I didn’t mean to spin him out. There are a ton of guys that do this and go do something like that…see it all the time. But yeah, I am just not going to get run like that and there is really no reason. I mean we are running second and third I think and had a shot to win, and it killed our car for sure. That was a bummer.”
Meanwhile, Hamlin expressed his thoughts on the incident, explaining that things were not over between them and would likely linger into the weeks ahead.
“I’ll just add it to the list of guys when I get a chance. They’re going to get it,” Hamlin said.
“It all just works itself out. We’ll be racing each other at some point. He’ll lose a lot of spots because he’s racing me. This is hard racing, obviously. I’m fine with hard racing.
“But wrecking me under caution is obviously not what we were bargaining for. So, thanks to my FedEx Toyota team for bouncing back. Obviously, it cost us all of our track position. I thought we were in a great position to win until we got sent back to 20-something there.”
Following the race, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller addressed the incident, noting that while they missed a call by not taking action on the incident during the race, but would be taking a closer look early in the week to see if any penalties would be warranted.
“I have to be honest with you. When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller explained.
“The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass. By the time we got to a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.
“I’m not sure that issue is completely resolved as of yet. We’ll be looking at that when we get back to work.”
UPDATE: On Tuesday, NASCAR made its ruling, docking 25 driver and owner points from Byron, as well as fining him $50,000.
The points penalty erases Byron’s 17-point cushion over the cut-off line heading into Talladega, where he now sits 10th in the standings at an eight-point deficit.
Hendrick Motorsports announced its intention to appeal the penalty later in the day on Tuesday, hoping to get the ruling overturned.