The NASCAR officials announced at the end of the Verizon 200 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that Ross Chastain had received a 30-second penalty for using the access road instead of Turn 1 and merging back onto the track in a fight with Tyler Reddick for the lead. Now a fellow driver has weighed in and shown support for Chastain’s move.
Team Penske’s Joey Logano made the comments on August 2 during his “Behind The Wheel” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. He explained that one of his fellow drivers used the access road multiple times during the Xfinity Series race. Logano said that he also saw Noah Gragson use this method during an earlier Xfinity Series road course race without receiving any penalties.
“From what I understand — and I may be wrong — but what I understand, what they did is legal,” Logano said on August 2. “From what I understand. And it’s not the first time that it happened. Austin Dillon did it in the Xfinity race. I watched it. He did it. Maybe even twice. I’m not sure. He definitely did it once. I think he did it twice, so he was ready for it.
“All of us saw it and had conversations about it with our teams beforehand. This was a real play in the playbook that, ‘Hey, if it looks like you’re going to be five-wide on the outside, blow the corner.’ You’re going to be pushing the grass anyway.”
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According to Logano, Chastain “snookered everyone” by using the access road to avoid the chaos in Turn 1. The 2018 Cup Series champion said that the Trackhouse Racing driver had “the guts” to pull off the move and that he finished second in his book.
Another Veteran Driver Weighed in After the Cup Series Race
Logano is not the only veteran driver that had some comments about Chastain’s decision to use the access road instead of trying to make Turn 1. Denny Hamlin also talked about the situation during an appearance on “Door, Bumper, Clear,” saying that he had considered this route as well.
“I’m glad he did it before I did,” Hamlin said during the August 1 episode. “I was thinking about it. I was thinking about it. I had a really good braking point into the access road. I really did. I did. I noticed in practice that even when I slowed way down and then said, ‘Ah, screw it, I gotta go to the access road,’ I’m looking and I’m like, ‘I’m already back where I came out .’”
Hamlin added that there “was a game” that he could have if he really committed to blowing the corner and just using the access road. He didn’t have the opportunity to test out this theory given that Chastain and Austin Dillon both used the access road during the final restart.
NASCAR Officials Detailed the Reason for the Penalty
Logano and Hamlin both mentioned that they viewed the access road as an option during the road course race, especially if it was safer than fighting through the crowd on Turn 1. NASCAR officials voiced a different opinion in the aftermath of the race.
Elton Sawyer, NASCAR vice president of officiating and technical inspection, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on August 2 and provided more comments about Chastain’s move and the penalty. He said that “it was clear” that Chastain had committed a violation at the end of the Verizon 200 Cup Series race by entering Turn 1 in the fifth position and exiting the access road side-by-side with Reddick.
“It states right in [the track limit guidelines)] that if you cut off a significant amount of the race course, then there will be a penalty,” Sawyer said. “And if it is at the end of the race, it will be 30 seconds. All of those bullet points, if you will, were well communicated to the industry, to the garage to the drivers.
“So what happened there at the end there, obviously the restart and they go off into Turn 1 and they get four- or five-wide. Ross, you can go back and look through the optics of it and you can also look at the data that supports he really accelerated. He didn’t [decelerate]. He accelerated to go through the run-off area. Again, we explained, and felt like we explained it really well on what you can and can’t do and what we expect from the track limits.”
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