NASCAR has a new topic that is becoming a weekly controversy. It's nice that the teams and the sport have access to SMT data, but it seems to have become an issue in the garage area.
This week's example is an incident between Austin Dillon and Austin Cindric that took place late in Sunday's Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison.
Dillon was certain that Cindric purposely right-hooked him. This has happened before between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin during the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29 at Charlotte, and Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson last fall. The disgruntled driver made sure to make his case in a post-race interview with Stephen Strumpf from Frontstretch.com.
"I was intentionally wrecked by him, hooked right, just like Chase and Denny and Bubba's deal," Dillon said. "He better be suspended next week."
Austin Dillon didn?t mince his words toward Austin Cindric.
?I was intentionally wrecked by him, hooked right, just like Chase and Denny and Bubba?s deal. He better be suspended next week.?
— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) June 5, 2023
Richard Childress, Dillon's grandfather and car owner, also pushed for some form of punishment for Cindric. Childress' other driver, Kyle Busch, won the race.
That all turned out to be for naught. NASCAR announced that it had looked into the incident, and NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer confirmed that Cindric would not be penalized. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that a review of the incident included the use of viewing video and data, as had been done with other incidents of similar proportions.
"We didn't see anything — and haven't seen anything — that really would rise to a level that could be a suspension or a penalty," Sawyer said. "It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down."
Sawyer said NASCAR takes these types of incidents very seriously, especially when a car is turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. This time, it wasn't deemed to be an egregious act. NASCAR reportedly plans to talk with both Dillon and Cindric "to make sure we're all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma."
Cindric didn't wait long to back up his innocence, as he shared his SMT data on Twitter not long after being cleared by NASCAR. He also shared a written statement voicing his frustration about having to take to Twitter to deal with on-track issues.
"As a professional, I do not enjoy having my character in question when it is not justified," Cindric wrote. "We are expected to race hard and I will not apologize for doing so."
— Austin Cindric (@AustinCindric) June 6, 2023
Many other NASCAR figures had plenty to say about the Dillon-Cindric incident. They included Denny Hamlin, who is no stranger to this recent trend of using SMT data to force NASCAR's hand. He did so on the latest episode of his podcast "Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin."
He didn't view the incident as egregious as when Elliott wrecked him, but he also said there was no reason to turn left at that point in the race.
Should Austin Cindric be suspended like Chase Elliott was? @dennyhamlin gives his take on the matter ??
— Dirty Mo Media (@DirtyMoMedia) June 5, 2023
"Is it as egregious? No, But there's no reason to be turning left there," Hamlin said. "I mean, especially since you're one week after the whole Chase thing, you know NASCAR is on heightened alert. That's just a lapse in judgment by Cindric."
It looks as if NASCAR has dug itself a hole with this whole situation. If it doesn't put a stop to this, there will be a lot arugments happening with every race.
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