May 25, 2024

NASCAR Race Winner Denny Hamlin Admits He Jumped Key Restart at Richmond

Denny Hamlin’s admission that he got away with an early restart at Richmond Raceway en route to his second Cup victory this season has angered fans and left one driver saying NASCAR’s explanation was “clear as mud.”

However, one thing the competitors do know is that NASCAR will keep a closer eye on each restart going forward.

“We have to be smart and understand that if the same thing happens this week, it will be called,” Hamlin says. “You would be dumb (to do it again this week) because you know they’re looking at it this week.”

Hamlin said he told NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer that he would make sure he kept the restart in the designated box the next time.

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Denny Hamlin celebrates his win last week at Richmond after a controversial restart.

“When I look back at it, I was not as close to the box as I thought I was,” Hamlin says. “I definitely understand that in the rulebook (there) is a black-and-white rule, but it’s something that all of us have taken advantage of over the last billion years.”

Hamlin estimates that 60 to 70% of the restarts occur before the restart box designated by NASCAR. He says the thing that benefited him at Richmond was the TV camera wasn’t on the restart when it occurred.

Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, had dominated the 400-lap race and was on the outside of Hamlin on the restart. He knew Hamlin went early and was angry that NASCAR didn’t penalize him.

“I don’t really understand. It’s a black-and-white rule,” Truex says. “You get to the box, and you go. I don’t really understand what all the questions are about. You go before it; you should get penalized.

“(Going forward) I guess if you try to jump, don’t be surprised if they penalize you. I don’t know.”

Truex admitted he was frustrated and aggravated after the Richmond race.

“I clearly lost my cool and did some things I’m probably not proud of, but you move on,” said Truex, who door slammed Kyle Larson after the checkered flag and then rammed Hamlin three times in the rear before heading to pit road.

“Somebody breaks a rule and doesn’t get in trouble for it. It’s ridiculous.”

“I seen what was said. I read what they (NASCAR) said, and I heard what Elton Sawyer said that if it happened with 50 to go, 100 to go or 300 to go they may have called it. So, it’s clear as mud. It’s hard to follow the rules. Somebody breaks a rule and doesn’t get in trouble for it. It’s ridiculous.”

Michael McDowell believes the restart box should be eliminated.

“If you’re the leader, you should have the advantage under every circumstance,” McDowell says. “There should never be a situation where the leader doesn’t have the advantage on a restart.

“I’m a fan of the leader just going whenever he wants to go … whether that’s the middle of the back straightaway or the front straightaway. In every other form of motorsports, it’s like that. You watch Formula One, they restart where they want to. Watch IndyCar, they restart where they want to. The leader (has) earned the right to control the race. In our situation it’s not. It’s entertainment that we’ve got to be two- and three-wide and put on a show at the end of it. Because of that not the best car wins.”


A North Carolina native, Deb Williams is an award-winning motorsports journalist who is in her fourth decade covering auto racing. In addition to covering the sport for United Press International, she has written motorsports articles for several newspapers, magazines and websites including, USA Today, and The Charlotte Observer. Her awards include the American Motorsports Media Award of Excellence, two-time National Motorsports Press Association writer of the year, and two-time recipient of the Russ Catlin award. She also has won an award in the North Carolina Press Association’s sports feature category.  During her career, Deb has been managing editor of GT Motorsports magazine and was with Winston Cup Scene and NASCAR Winston Cup Scene for 18 years, serving as the publication’s editor for 10 years. In 2024 she was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.