The NASCAR officials black-flagged the No. 18 of Kyle Busch for tape on the grille during the April 3 race at Richmond Raceway, forcing him to do a pass-through penalty and taking him out of contention for the win. Now team owner Joe Gibbs has responded.
Gibbs met with media members during Denny Hamlin‘s post-victory press conference. He said that he hasn’t talked to NASCAR officials yet about the timing of the penalty, but he confirmed that it is in his plans. His reason is that the timing of the penalty disrupted Busch’s run considering that officials waited 200-plus laps to call the penalty. The crew said that it put the tape on the No. 18 on Lap 126.
“I think the point was — when that happened — if that was a penalty, then address it,” Gibbs said during the post-race press conference. “And it wasn’t until two stops later. And so I think that’s our concern because that would completely change their strategy. So I think that’ll be something we need to discuss and go over.”
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NASCAR officials issued the penalty on Lap 345 of the scheduled 400, well after the team put the tape on the grille. The official explanation from NASCAR was that the delay was due to a lengthy video review to determine that Busch had not simply picked up some debris on the track.
Officials Determined Busch’s Team Misplaced the Tape
There were discussions during the race between Mike Joy, Clint Bowyer, and Chad Knaus about the penalty and the timing of the decision from the NASCAR officials. Analyst Larry McReynolds also joined in and explained that the pit crew meant to put the tape in a different location which would have not led to a penalty.
“I talked to NASCAR. Yes, he’s being black-flagged,” McReynolds said. “They feel like they meant to put it over the brake duct. Remember, we’ve been hearing all this talk about brake shake. They meant to put it over the brake duct and got it over the grille opening.”
Regardless of intention, the penalty removed Busch’s ability to contend. He was in position for either a top-five finish or a win, but he lost critical positions while serving the penalty. He dropped from sixth on Lap 351 to a lap behind the leaders. Though Busch was ultimately able to work his way back up to ninth overall after picking up four fresh tires during his pass-through penalty.
2 Late-Race Issues Have Derailed Promising Performances
The race at Richmond was the second consecutive week featuring a late-race issue for Busch and the No. 18 team. He also dropped out of the top 10 on the last lap at Circuit of the Americas due to a spin.
The incident occurred after Busch had fought his way back from a Chase Elliott-sparked spin in Stage 1. He was in contention for a top-five finish, which would have been his second of the year, but he spun exiting the esses (Turns 3, 4, and 5). This spin and one other later in the lap dropped him to 28th overall.
Busch remained in the playoff picture despite the spins at Circuit of the Americas, and he moved up a spot after the race at Richmond. He is now 10th overall after seven races, solidly above the elimination line.
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