NASCAR updated a bunch of its rules to try to make things a bit safer in the wake of the death of Kevin Ward, Jr. But if you thought that the tragic incident would've helped cooler heads previal, just for a little while, then you don't know NASCAR. Because Denny Hamlin just threw his HANS device at Kevin Harvick.
Harvick had just made contact with Hamlin, sending Hamlin sliding off track and eventually into the wall, knocking him out of the race, and also managing to take a swipe out of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It looked unintentional from Harvick's point of view, but Hamlin didn't see it that way, and he chucked the head restraint at Harvick to make his point known.
But Hamlin may have been missing NASCAR's point, depending on how you read the operative new rule:
- Do not loosen , disconnect or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official
- After being directed to exit the racecar, the driver should proceed to either the ambulance, other vehicle, or as otherwise directed by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official
- At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron
- At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle
Whatever punishment Hamlin does or does not receive will probably depend on how these rules are interpreted, as NASCAR said that they'll be handling each incident on a case-by-case basis. Had track personnel already told him to remove his helmet and HANS device? Hamlin eventually got into a waiting ambulance, but the rules also say nothing about a brief equipment-chucking delay.
And does this count as approaching the racing surface or another vehicle?
(Pedantic answers to those questions should fall along the lines of "doesn't matter," because no, technically NASCAR didn't explicitly ban HANS-device throwing, but attempting anything like this just short of two weeks after a fatal driver-rage incident is stupid, and he'll probably be punished in some form.)
NASCAR, for its part, isn't meting out any punishments just yet, but Hamlin was weirdly cryptic on Twitter after the whole thing:
Not sure if he's referring to his own mistake or Harvick's, but we'll find out soon enough.
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