April 19, 2024

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Just hours after defending NASCAR’s officiating this season, the series was embarrassed by an error on the Phoenix Raceway surface that painted the restart zone in the wrong place for the Truck Series championship.

The restart zone was at least 50 feet in the wrong place for Friday night’s crash-filled race, won by Christian Eckes in four overtimes. Ben Rhodes won his second Truck Series championship.

NASCAR overnight repainted the restart zone in its 2022 location in time for Saturday activity, which included qualifying for the Cup Series finale and the Xfinity Series championship race. No definitive reason was given for the paint having been in the wrong spot.

NASCAR did say that it notified the Truck Series teams that the restart zone was in the wrong spot and that it opted not to move it before the race.

The race was lambasted by top Cup Series drivers for its messy completion, which included Carson Hocevar wrecking Corey Heim and costing Heim the championship. The race went 29 laps past the scheduled distance, with the four overtimes caused by constant crashes in the field.

“This is what happens when there’s no rules, no officiating,” veteran Denny Hamlin posted on social media. “You get a product like this. ‘The show’ has taken over US Motorsports and why it’s hard to take seriously.”

In NASCAR’s annual state of the sport address earlier Friday, chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell took “a little bit of issue” when questioned about officiating errors throughout the season.

One of the most glaring gaffes was in the opening playoff race of the third round, when NASCAR disqualified Ryan Blaney for failing postrace inspection in a move that would have crushed his championship chances. One day later, NASCAR said the template it used to inspect Blaney’s car was off and his finish was reinstated — a turnaround that has Blaney racing Sunday for the Cup title.

“I put our officials up against any sport in the world. I’d also put our officials from an integrity standpoint up against anyone in the world,” O’Donnell said. “When they make a mistake, they don’t hide. They go to the media. They go to a race team, and they correct it. Doesn’t happen in all sports. Do we want to get everything right? We do. But I would remind everyone there’s no timeouts, there’s no going back to New York to review something.

“You’re racing. Every second of every race, you got to make a call,” O’Donnell added. “You got to be able to defend that. They’re able to come in and defend the call they made. If we made a mistake, we’re going to address it. We want to be perfect, for sure, but we’re not going to get everything right. We’re not going to get everything right in ’24 or ’25 as well. But I promise you that the best interests of getting it right.”

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