A controversial non-penalty decision affected the outcome of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway but likely had no repercussions on who advanced in the playoffs.
Clint Bowyer was running near the top-10 and hit pit road on Lap 213 when his right rear tire rolled back towards pit wall, and then into another team’s pit box. At first glance, this appeared to be an uncontrolled tire penalty.
If that was called against the No. 14 team, it would have meant a pass-through penalty and the resulting loss of a lap in the process. At the same time all of this happened, Ryan Blaney was racing to score enough points to overcome a 22-point deficit to make the Field of 8.
Bowyer finished 14th and Blaney finished seventh — a difference of six points between the two. Even if Bowyer was forced to hit pit road again, the worst he could have finished all things equal was 18th, enough to still advance over Blaney by two points.
So ultimately, the lack of a penalty didn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
NASCAR officials have stated twice since the incident that the right call was made. During the race, a NASCAR spokesman told attending media that tires are allowed to cross into an adjacent pit box on the inside of the car provided they don’t impede another driver or go past the halfway point of the adjacent stall.
Also, if a car had pitted in the stall before the No. 14’s during the time of his pit stop, or if it had rolled past the pit stall number, that would have resulted in a penalty to Bowyer. But neither of those instances occurred.
NASCAR vice president of competition Steve O’Donnell took to the SiriusXM airwaves on Monday morning to expound on why no penalty was called against the No. 14 team.
"On that call, and you have to compare where that tire went, and what the circumstances were," O'Donnell said. "As the rule stands, the tire must be controlled to the inside of the pit box … and it is allowed to cross into an adjacent pit box.
"But it can't impede another car. So, in this case, if Clint had been pitting and if there was another car pitting and it impeded their stop, that would have been a penalty, so you can almost say the stars aligned for the 14 team because the stall was open."
The only rebuttal from fans and a handful of crew members is that the rule is written in black-and-white terms:
"The removed tire/wheel must not be allowed to roll free into an adjacent competitor's pit box."
So, the ruling was correct as consistently enforced this season, but the wording of the rule in the rule book could use a clarification. And ultimately, in this case, it did not determine who advanced because Bowyer would not have lost enough championship points to make a difference.
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