May 5, 2012
By Jim Fitzgerald
Up In The Marbles…After The Capital City 400
Controversy, Confusion and Clarity
During the Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway this past weekend, we found ourselves dealing with a little bit of controversy when, with eighty-two laps to go, Carl Edwards appeared to jump the restart.
Edwards was on the outside, and in a post race interview stated that about three seconds before the green flag, a NASCAR official told his spotter, Jason Hedlesky, that they were the leader, and not Tony Stewart. At that point, Edwards said he felt he was at a disadvantage as he was in the front of the outside lane, not the inside, which he would have chosen if he had the opportunity, as the leader.
Edwards, to try to have the best possible restart, then gassed the car and left Stewart about six car lengths behind. NASCAR black flagged Edwards for jumping the restart, and the penalty of a pit lane drive through was executed.
Edwards’ crew chief, Bob Osborne, was livid and felt that NASCAR got this one wrong because Tony Stewart spun his tires on the restart, and was unable to keep pace with Edwards. On the FOX broadcast, it also looked as if Osborne, usually fairly calm, may have spoken some Mommy and Daddy words. That was the controversy.
CIA Stock Photos
Did Edwards Jump The Start On Stewart?
The confusion took place when Edwards, as he stated, was told by his spotter, who was told by a NASCAR official, that he was in the lead. NASCAR maintained, through a statement from Robin Pemberton, that Stewart was the leader, and that Edwards did, in fact, jump the restart. Edwards and Osborne claimed that when Stewart attempted to go on the restart, he spun his tires, which made it appear as if Edwards has gotten a huge advantage on the rest of the field on the restart, which he did.
Osborne and Edwards had a conversation on the radio about the penalty, and were still confused, but Edwards did come down the pit lane to serve his penalty. That was the confusion.
Now, here comes the clarity. Well, a least it is my version of the clarity, anyway.
On the one-to-go lap, which is the lap that is run when there is one lap to go before going green, as the drivers were shifting their cars back and forth to clean off the tires, Carl Edwards managed to get his car across the start/finish line ahead of Tony Stewart, who was the race leader.
The electronic scoring pylon in the middle of the race track then shifted to reflect Edwards as the leader, as the scoring system does for the first car to complete each lap. I am not sure who told Jason Hedlesky they were the leader, but if they were looking at the scoring pylon, they would have certainly seen the No. 99 in the top spot.
So, Edwards, feeling that disadvantage, hits the gas and goes while Stewart smoked his tires. There is only one small problem with that, though. Edwards was outside of the restart zone. On the inside of the outside wall at all race tracks on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, there are two lines painted from the top of the wall to the bottom. If I remember correctly, the distance between the two lines is 110 feet, which is enough room for just under seven cars lined up from the front bumper to the rear bumper.
This number came about when NASCAR implemented the double file restart rule. The original distance determination was done at each track, and was calculated by doubling the pit road speed, and converting that number into feet. Now, it is always 110 feet.
The leader of the race is in control of the restart, but must wait until passing the first line at the beginning of the zone to do so. If the leader does not restart the race by the time he or she crosses the start/finish line, the flagman will wave the green flag and the race will restart.
In Saturday’s race, if you look at the restart carefully, you can see Edwards attempt to restart the race about one and a half car lengths before the beginning of the restart zone. Whether Edwards was the leader or not, he still cannot restart the race before that first line, which is exactly what happened.
The next part of this is a “what if” with a side order of “I think this is correct.”
Let us now assume that Stewart was indeed the leader, and Edwards was in second place, as they were. Now, let us assume that Stewart and Edwards were both inside the first line, which is to say that Stewart could have hit the accelerator whenever he wanted to restart the race. Edwards mashes the gas first and crosses the start/finish line first.
Technically, a violation has occurred, however, I think Edwards would be given the opportunity to give the spot back to Stewart, and if he did so, no penalty would be levied. That, however, is neither here nor there. At the end of the day, the replay shows that Edwards accelerated before reaching the restart zone and, regardless of who was leading the race at the time, committed a foul.
Two Topics for Tony
After Saturday Night’s race at Richmond, a disappointed Tony Stewart looked into the television camera, held up a bottle of water, and basically stated that “one of these” was the reason that he and his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 team were not in Victory Lane, where Kyle Busch was, instead.
While listening to 'The Morning Drive' on SiriusXM on Monday morning, I heard Dave Moody explain what he saw. Moody was working the race, broadcasting all of the action on the backstretch for MRN radio. Moody explained to Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone that what he saw on the backstretch was not a plastic water bottle. It appeared to be shiny, metal, and larger than a beer can. That is a paraphrase, by the way but I would hope that a respected eye witness’ account of the incident would be enough to put any conspiracy theorists to bed with sweet dreams for the evening.
I respect Tony Stewart. Three time Sprint Cup Champions deserve respect. Members of the media deserve respect as well. I can understand that Stewart was upset after the race, having it slip away from him in the closing laps. I do not believe, however, that his frustration would give him the right to dress down a member of the media during a press conference. If you haven’t seen the clip, it’s on YouTube, but it goes a little something like this:
David Newton, ESPN: Tony, this is the third race in a row where we haven’t had a wreck. Does that amaze you, have you ever seen anything like that?
Wow. I think all Newton was trying to do was get Stewart’s opinion on something that has not happened in more than twenty years. If Stewart had won that race as he thought he would, I wonder what his response would have been. Sometimes, especially in hindsight, the term “no comment” just seems so appropriate.
Tony Stewart: David, only you’d think about stuff like that. I don’t know what you think of during the race but I try to figure out how to win the race and make my car go faster. I don’t sit there and think of that petty crap that you think of. (Shaking his head) Glad to see you're back to form.
That is all for me this week. From a short track to the longest one, we’re headed to Talladega. I wonder if David Newton will still be able to ask that same question next week. If he can, I think he should.
“Life is based less than you think on what you’ve learned, and much more than you think on what you have inside you right from the beginning”
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