Byron, Gibbs hit with massive penalties for Texas incidents, my thoughts

NASCAR hinted that this could happen and on Tuesday afternoon, officials handed out two sizable penalties Tuesday for rough driving, docking William Byron and Ty Gibbs for their roles in separate incidents in last weekend’s Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron was hit with a 25-point penalty in both the driver and team owner standings for bumping Denny Hamlin out of position during a late-race caution period in Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 – a punishment that carries significant playoff implications. He was also fined $50,000.

Byron was third in the Cup Series Playoffs with a 17-point cushion above the elimination line before the penalty. He’ll now enter Sunday’s YellaWood 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Talladega Superspeedway ranked 10th out of the 12 remaining title-eligible drivers and eight points below the provisional elimination line. Two races are left in the Round of 12 – Sunday at Talladega and Oct. 9 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course.

Gibbs, in his 10th Cup Series start for 23XI Racing in place of the injured Kurt Busch, was fined $75,000 for veering into the No. 42 Petty GMS Chevrolet of Ty Dillon on pit road. That aggressive contact came in close proximity to pit-crew personnel and NASCAR officials working in a nearby pit stall.

Gibbs, 19, was not issued a points penalty since he is an Xfinity Series regular who does not collect Cup Series points. But his No. 23 Toyota team was handed a 25-point deduction in the owner standings which is why him being swapped to the 23 team and not the 45 is key because the 45 is still in the owners championship and this would have been a massive penalty for that group.

It’s the second time this year that Gibbs has been penalized for unsafe driving on pit road. He was fined $15,000 for making contact with Sam Mayer’s car in the pits after an Xfinity Series race at Martinsville in April. That retaliation led to post-race fisticuffs between the two drivers.

I don’t mind the fine for Gibbs in a sense that it was reckless and dangerous. What I do mind is Byron being docked after the race concluded.

NASCAR officials did not penalize Byron during Sunday’s 500-miler, saying their spotters did not see the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet send Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota spinning under yellow-flag conditions in retaliation for earlier contact. Hamlin was not restored to his original running position, and he finished 10th. Byron came home seventh.

That was a huge penalty for Hamlin who should have never been penalized in the first place. NASCAR admitted that. They also admitted a penalty could later come for Byron too.

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,” said Scott Miller, Senior Vice President of Competition on Sunday night when addressing the Byron and Hamlin situation.

“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.

“So if we had seen that good enough to react to it real-time, which we should have, like no excuse there, there would probably have been two courses of action: one would have been to put Hamlin back where he was, and the other would be to have made William start in the back.

“I’m not sure that issue is completely resolved as of yet. We’ll be looking at that when we get back to work.”

I don’t like a penalty of this magnitude to occur after the race is over. I would have rather seen NASCAR do something similar to F1 or INDYCAR to the “incident being under review” during the race and can black flag Byron later on.

But doing so days later, I don’t think is right. He deserved a penalty and deserved what he got, but it should have taken place on Sunday. It’s also a steeper penalty than he would have received if he was penalized on Sunday because 25 points is like losing 25 spots on track. He wouldn’t have been really any further than the mid 20’s if sent to the back and would have had time to make up ground.

I get NASCAR is sending a message here but I think it’s wrong to miss a call during a race but make up for it after. It’s like a referee missing a clear strike or a clear foul in a game but later calling it after the game is over and penalizing the team more points than they would have scored.

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