Race Weekend Central

Fencing Someone Has Become a New Normal & Drivers Are Not Having It

Denny Hamlin scored his 50th NASCAR Cup Series win at Pocono Raceway on Sunday (July 23), and he was greeted by a showering of boos at the start/finish line.

Why? The controversial decision to end the race under caution was perhaps one of the reasons, but it also had to do with moving up the track and putting Kyle Larson in the turn 1 wall while battling for the top spot with seven laps to go.

Hamlin was adamant in his victory lane interview that he did not touch the No. 5 car, but just about every replay has proved otherwise.

See also
2-Headed Monster: Denny Hamlin vs. Kyle Larson, Who Was Right?

The Pocono finish marked yet another instance of a driver moving up from their line and forcing the car on the outside to either lift or hit the fence; this time, the move has drawn criticism from people in the NASCAR industry.

While there isn’t a proper name for this type of move at the moment, it’s drawn the ire of fellow drivers, and in extreme circumstances, retaliation.

In 2023 alone, we’ve had Ryan Preece extract payback on Larson after he put Preece in the wall out of turn 4 in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Then, we had Noah Gragson confront and get punched by Ross Chastain post-race for pulling the move in turn 4 at Kansas Speedway. In the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chase Elliott right-reared Hamlin on the straightaway after he was walled out of turn 4. And now, this.

That’s not even including incidents from last year or races this year that didn’t feature immediate retaliation. At Phoenix Raceway in March, Hamlin intentionally walled Chastain on the final restart to even a score from the year prior. At Darlington Raceway in May, Chastain and Larson walled each other on consecutive restarts until Chastain drifted up and knocked both of them out of contention.

Last year, Joey Logano bumped William Byron into the fence at Darlington for squeezing him into the wall on the final restart. Hamlin drifted up and put Chastain in the wall at Pocono last year as payback for incidents at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bubba Wallace right-reared Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for moving him into the fence. At Texas Motor Speedway in September, Hamlin pulled the move on Byron, and Byron responded by spinning him out under caution.

Perhaps it’s recency bias talking, but I can’t remember a time in the Gen 6 era when this move was as commonplace as it is with the Next Gen car.

And with that, the question still stands: Why has this move proliferated since the car switch in 2022?

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Intermediates, the New Short Track

A constant between the Gen 6 and Next Gen – and really any car in the last 30 years – is dirty air.

As Landon Cassill explains, if a driver is unable to complete a pass on the inside in a timely manner, they drift backward in a hurry. And at tracks where it’s hard to pass the leader like Pocono, forcing the issue or ceding the position is often the difference between winning and losing.

Drivers are looking – often in desperation – to complete passes, and both a benefit and drawback of the Next Gen car is that it’s built like a tank.

With the Gen 6 car, contact while running side-by-side had a huge risk of cutting down a tire for either party. And for the car that got put in the fence, the resulting damage was a race-ender more often than not.

The Next Gen car allows the car to absorb more hits in these types of situations, but the car isn’t 100% invincible to this type of contact. Preece’s car was crippled after being stuffed into the wall at Bristol dirt, and Larson’s car was a parachute on the final restart at Pocono after the contact with Hamlin and the wall.

Whether or not the car gets damaged, however, the victims of these moves have almost always retaliated – sometimes in ways that cross a line. NASCAR is a self-policing sport, but a driver should never right-rear someone on the straightaway of a high-speed track.

Racing with respect has been a hot topic in recent years for NASCAR. And if the retaliations have been any indication, running someone into the fence is perhaps one of the most disrespectful things a driver can do.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Jason

Is it the new bump and run?

wildcats2016

not in my opinion, in the “old” days, if they did a bump & run correctly, the other driver was moved up the track BUT could continue racing. Fencing another car is a different story altogether because it usually results in a wreck.

Ted

It’s one thing to run a guy up a track without hitting them, like Larson did to Bubba, and Chastain did to Gragson. The line is crossed once they hit and run them into the wall, as Denny did to Chase and Larson. At that point, it should be fair game on payback. 🤷🏼‍♂️

wildcats2016

BTW in case anyone is interested in watching the SRX race tonight, it’s on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET

DoninAjax

And REVTV.

Jeremy

I think the TV networks are behind it, because cautions bring more air time for commercials!

Robert

Rubbing is racing but intentionally wrecking someone is unsportsmanlike conduct. I have an example. Rusty wallace was the master of the bump n run at the short tracks. He got moved out of the way by Jeff Gordon at Bristol in 1998. When they went to Richmond, Rusty Wallace Wrecked Jeff Gordon and took him out of the race, payback for Bristol. That was intentional and not a bump n run.
Earnhardt put a bump n run on Terry Labonte at Bristol. Unfortunately Terry crashed. The fans had a mixed reaction of cheers and boos. But it wasn’t intentional. His intent was to move him not wreck him.

WJW Motorsports

If you remove the ability of a team to bring a car to the track that is faster than the competitors’, as NASCAR has done/is attempting to do, you get 30 cars that are all the same, driven by guys that for the most part are all just as talented as each other behind the wheel. Thus, they resort to other tactics to get by guys, which is what we are seeing today.

Steve C

Y’all aren’t surprised that Denise is a proven liar are you? He’s so jealous of the Hendrick bunch – it’s so pathetic

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