O’Donnell Explains NASCAR Miscues At Richmond

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By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Richmond Raceway was a rough night for the sanctioning body following numerous calls by the tower.

NASCAR’s executive Vice President and chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell, went on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” to explain an abnormal night for NASCAR officials and take responsibility for what took place on the racetrack.

“Tough night for race control. I think if you’re a race team you talk about putting that behind you and move onto Chicago. We are certainly going to meet and put our best effort heading into Chicago,” said O’Donnell. “When you look at the year to date, we have been really consistent and done a really great job. Unfortunately, that didn’t carry through on Saturday night.

The first state of confusion from race control was the second caution of the night that occurred on Lap 88 when Matt Kenseth pumped his brakes a little hard that caused smoke. Race control was quick to throw the caution without assessing what the smoke came from.

“The first one, I think, was a quick trigger. It was a mistake. If that was the only thing that would have happened I think everyone would have said ‘hey that was a mistake’ and moved on,” said O’Donnell.

The second mistake from NASCAR race control was an incident with an ambulance stopping on pit road at Lap 257. This incident bunched up the field and ruined the nights of Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth, both drivers needed a win to make sure they were locked into the playoff field.

In race control, NASCAR has two people communicating. One person communicates with emergency services and tow trucks. Everyone stopped when the directive was given, except the ambulance, when the driver finally heard the directive, they stopped in the wrong place.

“We communicated with the ambulance multiple times over the radio to stop. Pit road was open. Unfortunately, the vehicle chose to stop in what was the worst place. We can’t go back and fix that,” O’Donnell stated. “We can obviously go back and look at the communication and what are better ways to make sure that doesn’t happen. That could have had a huge impact on the race. It actually did.”

The final caution of the night happened at Derrike Cope scraped the all and continued. The caution ultimately sent the race into NASCAR Overtime. When the field hit pit road, Martin Truex Jr was the race leader, but came out second. On the restart, the field completed one lap before Truex was turned into the wall by Denny Hamlin to bring out the caution that ended the race. Truex ultimately finish in the 20th position.

“I have been back and forth with Martin and he is obviously upset. I think that’s fair. It’s something that we have to look at going forward and get back to being consistent,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell admitted that NASCAR was at fault and would regroup to make sure things are right going forward.

“It was not our best effort. I think heading into the playoffs, we are going to regroup and have a bunch of meetings to get it right.”

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