NASCAR Owes Fans an Apology After Poor Restart Officiating

Now that I kind of run this Wheels site I have to pay a lot more attention to what happens in the entire world of racing. I admit, I watch 80% of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series races, but maybe only watch about 20% of the Nationwide Series, and yeah it’s even less for the Truck Series. What I saw this weekend at Richmond in both series’ was an embarrassment to officiating. So embarrassing, that even the NFL’s replacement referees thought NASCAR did a poor job this weekend. https://twitter.com/damiEnbowman/status/376539915439185920

The rules on restarts are simple, and well known, so well known that once I explain it you won’t misunderstand the rule. Essentially, it is black and white.

In all but very special circumstances, the leader needs to get to the start/finish line before the car in second place.

Let that sink in.

Still need help? The guy in second, cannot beat the guy in first to the stripe on a restart.

More? If you’re in front of me on the restart, I shouldn’t get to the start/finish line before you do.

That’s three definitions of the same rule, and I’ll go ahead and assume that you got the point after the second explanation. The third was really for the four-year-old sitting in the room with me right now.

On Friday and then again on Saturday the second-place car beat the first place car to the stripe. As noted above, that’s illegal. In any other form of motorsports, this would have been penalized immediately.

NASCAR apparently thinks it’s legal.

Here’s the final restart from Friday. ESPN, NASCAR’s broadcast partner, says Brian Scott spun his tires. You can judge that for yourself.

Go ahead and watch that again, and let me know if you think he spun his tires.

Exactly.

On Saturday in its drivers meeting, NASCAR issued a warning to its drivers about restarts. Here is a quote from NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton in a story USA Today columnist Jeff Gluck wrote:

“But NASCAR has repeatedly said it does not want to get into the business of judging restarts by inches, instead urging drivers just to do it the right way.

"I just want to remind everybody: Do not put us in that position where we have to make the call," Pemberton said Saturday. "Because more times than not, it isn't going to be in your favor – and we don't want to do that, OK?"

So, one would think if it were to happen during the Cup race it would be easy to spot and easy to enforce, right? Well, it didn’t happen that way. I went to ESPN’s site to get the video highlights of the race, and after sitting through four minutes of video I noticed ESPN didn’t make a single mention of the final restart, or show any video of it.

You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about, huh? Thankfully, NASCAR, for now, has video of the final laps available on its YouTube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q86Mdzf_08M

If you’re wondering, the car on the inside, in yellow, is the leader. Which car got to the stripe first?

I point all that out to say, I understand that Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski are going to do everything they can to win, and while some of you might call that cheating, I won’t. NASCAR’s officials blatantly ignored two drivers jumping restarts even though it said it would enforce the rule.

Yes, Keselowski’s restart was a little but closer to legal than Edwards’ was, but do you think NASCAR intentions of ruling either illegal? I’ll guess not, because it certainly had an opportunity to man-up Saturday evening and finally enforce a rule it called out, and it failed its drivers, but more importantly failed its fans.

For the sake of integrity of the sport itself, and its championship, I hope NASCAR is willing to enforce this rule over the last 10 races this season.