Chase Elliott never thought about NASCAR forcing him to fix the radio problems that plagued his team throughout the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. But, on Monday morning, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller conceded officials probably should have made the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team address the issue.
Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials in the tower have a lot going on during an event and do not monitor every team transmission. When officials did turn to Elliott’s upon being made aware of a potential issue during the race’s first pit stop, Miller said they heard communication between Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson.
“We felt like they were in communication with one another,” said Miller. “Obviously, by (Elliott’s) interview at the end of the race, we were wrong about that. But that’s one of those things about officiating these races: We make decisions, and we live with them, and we have to move on to the next race.
“Maybe we missed that one, and maybe we should have had him (pit) because they’re supposed to have all that communication. But there was dialogue back and forth between he and the crew chief that led us to believe they were OK, and it turns out from his interview afterward they weren’t.
“It was one we might have missed, but, hey, that was the decision we made and on to Texas.”
The problem was that the team could hear Elliott over the radio, but he could not hear them or spotter Eddie D’Hondt. Under caution, communication would improve slightly to allow the two sides to catch up and allow the team to figure how to get a message to their driver should the radio go down again (such as putting tape on the pit sign to signal a two-tire pit stop).
Elliott was also given a new set of earplugs under a caution, hoping a replacement pair would solve the issues. Under green, Elliott admitted he could not hear D’Hondt consistently or when he was in a three-wide battle.
It became a major story on the NBC Sports broadcast with Elliott being a playoff contender. NASCAR never made the team address the issue, and Elliott finished sixth. He goes into Texas eight points below the cutline.
“I didn’t think it was unsafe,” said Elliott. “Honestly, I never even thought about that. Short track dirt racers around the country race with no (crew chiefs and) spotters every weekend. We have both. I don’t know why we can’t handle it if our radios go bad.”
There is a section of the NASCAR Cup Series Rule Book, though, that addresses radio communication, stating, “during competition, in-vehicle radio communication capability is required between the driver, crew chief, and spotter of the same vehicle number.”
NASCAR’s can penalize a team for not having adequate communication at its discretion.
Said Miller, “Most of the times when we have brought people in it, ironically, has been because they’ve had either a speeding on pit road, some kind of pit road infraction or some other infraction, and we communicate to the spotter to bring the driver down pit road, and there is no response. That’s when we typically become aware of a radio problem. In those cases, when the driver doesn’t respond to what the spotter is asking him to do, we always make them come down and fix it.”