Was the penalty on Elliott Sadler after a late restart in Saturday's Nationwide Series race justified?
PETE PISTONE (@PPistone)
Elliott Sadler absolutely was robbed Saturday in Indianapolis. NASCAR's restart rules are confusing and so open-ended it's hard to believe this situation doesn't happen more often. And in the case of Sadler the ramifications of being black flagged for truly not doing anything "wrong" more than likely cost him a win, a $100,000 bonus and quite possibly the overall Nationwide Series championship.
While the "rule" states the second-place car cannot be ahead of the first-place car when the field crosses the start/finish line after a restart, it should come with a disclaimer in the case of what Sadler faced on Saturday. Leader Brad Keselowski clearly either spun his wheels or quite possibly employed a little "gamesmanship" by slowing down a tad forcing Sadler to be ahead when the duo crossed the line.
Oh, and by the way, Sadler had Austin Dillon on his rear bumper at about 100 mph literally pushing him down the straightaway. Had Sadler applied the brakes to avoid being ahead, he would have triggered a chain reaction accident for the ages.
When a driver is in a box like Sadler with no options, NASCAR should use judgment in making the call and take specific situations into consideration. By making it black and white to the letter of the law with no interpretation allowed for such circumstances, the door now opens for drivers to shove one another across the line to mess up a competitor's day or for more brake checking like many have accused Keselowski of doing on Saturday.
And why are the rules when a race begins different than restarts? There should be consistency across the board to alleviate more confusion.
NASCAR cannot just leave it up to the drivers to handle their "responsibilities," as they were scolded in Sunday's Indianapolis driver's meeting. Officials need to ensure all the competitors understand the guidelines and then use good judgment enforcing those rules. That is their job and responsibility.
Brian De Los Santos (@BrianDLS)
To be clear here, NASCAR didn't penalize Sadler for jumping the restart, but rather because he beat Brad Keselowski to the start/finish line. Which he clearly did due to a combination of Keselowski spinning his tires (or taking the restart slow) and Sadler receiving a strong push from behind.
Bascially there was little Sadler could do to avoid the situation.
NASCAR officials said all Sadler had to do was give back the position and there would have been no penalty. But that's a tough thing to do for a driver racing for a win in the final laps, especially when he had no idea he did anything wrong.
All these recent restart controversies got me thinking -- why the heck is there a "restart" line ahead of the start/finish line in the first place? Why doesn't the start/finish line serve as the "restart" line?
Wouldn't that solve 99% of these issues?
Not to mention there are different rules for the initial start of the race vs. how they restart after a caution. Who knew? Things are mucked up in such a manner that NASCAR officials can't even give drivers a reasonable answer as how to avoid the scenario that Sadler found himself in Saturday, other than to say drivers need to take responsibility for their actions.
Another option -- outside of eliminating the restart box completely -- is to wave off the restart in the event it's jumped or the second-place car beats the first-place car to the start/finish line. If it happens a second consecutive time, then move forward with penalties, sort of what you'd see at a track meet.
Unfortunately for Sadler, those aren't the rules and, by the the letter of the rulebook, NASCAR officials were well within their authority to act.