As expected, NASCAR’s first call in the Chase on a driver for a restart violation is clouded in controversy.
And even the beneficiary in this case, Greg Biffle, doesn’t believe the punishment fits the crime.
On a restart on Lap 243 of 300, Biffle was the race leader and as he and Brad Keselowski entered the restart zone side-by-side, Keselowski appeared to get jump on Biffle and crossed the second restart line before him.
Keselowski sounds off
NASCAR officials immediately placed the restart “under review” and shortly thereafter, Keselowski was assessed a restart violation and had to pit for a stop-and-go penalty.
“It’s a pretty basic understanding. It’s an entertainment sport, not a fair sport, but we had a great car,” Keselowski said after Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
You can look at that restart and Brad and I were even going into Turn 1
Greg Biffle defends Brad Keselowski
“I had the chance to do something again for the first time. The first person to ever be penalized for jumping a restart when I didn’t pass anyone, so that’s a new one.”
NASCAR defends the call
Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck said after the race it does not matter if the driver gains anything from jumping the start, the act itself results in a penalty.
He said the call was “clear cut” and was based on the use of video and a senior NASCAR official that is now based trackside by the restart zone.
“We looked at all the data available to us, all the video, we have the senior official on the ground. We made sure the rules are very clear to everybody, especially in the last couple drivers meetings, to be sure we had everybody informed,” Buck said.
“It was very clear-cut in our mind based on the video we had, the different angles that we had. By having the individual on the ground directly across from the restart box, they can really get a good understanding and allow us to feel 100 percent that we stamped it with a very good decision.”
Biffle the beneficiary, but disagrees with NASCAR
Biffle said from his view inside the car, it looked like Keselowski started the race before him but he didn’t feel as if Keselowski gained any kind of advantage. Biffle also said he wanted to review video of the restart in order to get a better understanding of how the incident played out.
“You can look at that restart and Brad and I were even going into Turn 1. I think restarts people were complaining about was (Matt Kenseth) at Richmond, when he was 2 ½ car lengths ahead of the field going into Turn 1 – that’s where we need supervision,” he said.
“There is going to be gamesmanship and we need that. Let us have our fun in the (zone) as long as it’s relatively even. Give us a quarter of a fender or something.”
Biffle ended up finishing fourth – his second-best finish of the season and just his third top-five finish. Keselowski rebounded from the penalty to finish 12th.
An ongoing debate
Since mid-summer, several drivers have complained about what they perceive are inconsistent calls on restarts from NASCAR.
The current policy allows the race leader to start the race in a restart zone. The leader cannot start the race before the zone, and if the leader doesn’t go by the end of the zone, the second-place car is free to go.
NASCAR did not change its policy but before last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway, it announced it was dedicating additional resources – including video and officials – to monitor the restart area.