Connecticut Post (Sunday)

Contenders want traffic to pull aside


KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Daniel Suarez refused to get out of Martin Truex Jr.’s way and it ultimately ruined Truex’s race. Tyler Reddick did the same to William Byron, and Chase Briscoe held firm to his right to race hard when battling with Denny Hamlin.

A conversati­on on driver code and on-track etiquette is raging right now in NASCAR, and with it comes a heated debate on the expectatio­ns of non-playoff drivers. If a title contender is trying to gain track position, should another driver clear the lane for an easy pass?

It’s been a touchy topic since the playoff format was introduced in 2004. NASCAR, unlike any stickand-ball sports, permits everyone to race in the postseason even if they aren’t in title contention. It puts a mix

of slow cars and mediocre drivers on the same track as the superstars racing for the final trophy.

With two races remaining to lock in the championsh­ip field, conversati­on has turned to how non-playoff drivers should be expected to race Sunday at Kansas Speedway. It’s the middle race of the third round of the playoffs and only Kyle Larson has earned a slot in the Nov. 7 winner-take-all finale at Phoenix.

Seven others are vying for the remaining three berths in the championsh­ip round — at minimum Truex and Joey Logano are in must-win situations — and there’s a high probabilit­y of desperate racing come Sunday.

Especially when they encounter stubborn drivers who won’t heed way on the racetrack.

When Briscoe raced Hamlin hard for position late in last week’s race at Texas, Hamlin fumed about a lack of situationa­l awareness.

“There’s cars racing for a championsh­ip,” Hamlin wrote to Briscoe on Instagram. “Perhaps when you learn give and take you will start to finish better.”

But Briscoe, a rookie driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, held his ground.

“I get paid to race, just because you guys are racing in the playoffs doesn’t mean I’m just gonna wave you by,” Briscoe wrote back to Hamlin. “One of the best cars we’ve had all year and I was trying to take advantage of it. I understand you guys are racing for a championsh­ip which is awesome for you guys but I’m racing for a job and results let me keep that job.”

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