SPEEDWAY, Ind. — In NASCAR overtime, Tyler Reddick made it through Turn 1 with a sizeable lead after contact between the contenders behind him. He went through Turns 2 and 3 when suddenly, he had a new competitor beside him.
“It didn’t seem like real life,” said Reddick, the race winner.
Reddick had no clue where Chastain came from. Neither did anyone else.
“Where did that guy come from?,” Randall Burnett, Reddick’s crew chief exclaimed.
While driving into Turn 1 on the restart, Chastain decided to continue straight and take an access road which eventually led back onto the course. With cars three-wide in front of him, Chastain felt it would be best to take the road, which is meant for those who miss the corner.
“Just trying not to be in the corners there in Turn 1,” Chastain said. “I thought we were four wide, and couldn’t go any farther right, and decided to take the NASCAR access lane out there.
“I took it in practice on exit, overshooting Turn 1. You know where they’re at and in 12 you have to go around the loop there, and there is around the pole. Just wanted to not get hit and merged back on where I merged.”
Burnett said he saw a car blow Turn 1 but he wasn’t sure what would come of it.
“I saw one car go blowing through the whole thing,” Burnett said. “I didn’t realize that’s where he came out. I was trying to get caught up. Where did he come from? That was pretty entertaining.”
Chastain led Reddick down the backstretch with everyone unsure whether Chastain’s move was legal or not. The path he took blended him onto the course near Turn 3, which was quicker than following the actual course.
“I was waiting to see what was going to happen with that situation because I think I had Jim Pohlman (spotter) say, hey, he’s probably going to get penalized,” Reddick said. “He’s going to get penalized isn’t good enough. I need to know if — I didn’t know for sure if he was or wasn’t.”
The race finished and Chastain crossed the line second. But, NASCAR issued a 30-second penalty for “short-cutting the course.”
According to the NASCAR-issued driver’s meeting video, a vehicle that misses a corner must serve a penalty by coming to a complete stop in Turn 12. But, if it is late in the race and the penalty cannot be served, NASCAR will add 30 seconds onto that driver’s result, which was the case for Chastain.
Instead of finishing second, Chastain finished 27th.
This isn’t the first instance of short-cutting the course at Indianapolis. When battling for the win last year, Chase Briscoe short cut Turns 1 and 2 through the grass and was penalized. He spun Denny Hamlin from the lead before serving the penalty, handing the win to AJ Allmendinger.
Reddick said he can’t blame competitors for using the access road, but said NASCAR may need to make changes in the future.
“It looked like [Chastain] pretty much decided that was the route he was going to go,” Reddick said. “The ruling by NASCAR is they don’t gain a huge advantage or whatever the term might be it’s acceptable, and he obviously gained too much of an advantage and it cost him a really solid finish inside the top 10.
“Hopefully going forward, especially when we come back to here with this track and how that chicane or the cut-through is designed, we can make it to where it’s a little bit slower to where no matter if he hit it absolutely perfect, it’s costing you at least two, three, four seconds to where this situation doesn’t happen again.
“I don’t blame Ross for making that move because as a competitor, looking at how the rules were set forth, if I’m in a situation I want to do everything I can to win the race. I don’t blame him for trying to take advantage of it. It’s a shame it went the way that it did.”