Monday, April 30, 2012

Dispelling The Richmond Restart Controversy

A few facts, if you will, concerning Saturday night’s “Capital City 400” at Richmond International Raceway.

Edwards dominated Saturday
Controversy erupted in the aftermath of the race’s penultimate restart, when Carl Edwards was black flagged by NASCAR for jumping the green flag with 81 laps remaining. The Roush Fenway Racing driver had dominated the race to that point, leading 206 laps of the 319 laps run. But a bizarre set of late-race circumstances set the stage for confusion, anger and misunderstanding, leaving Edwards to scramble back through the field for a disappointing 10th-place finish.

For the record, here’s how things went down Saturday night…

Lap 308 (92 remaining): Drivers begin making green-flag pit stops for tires and fuel.

Lap 311 (89 remaining): Moments after exiting pit road, Jeff Burton’s BB&T Chevrolet hits the wall in Turn Three, bringing out the caution flag. Just three drivers -- Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart – remain on the lead lap.

Lap 313 (87 remaining): Johnson pits under the ensuing caution period, handing the lead to Stewart. Kyle Busch receives the “Lucky Dog,” bypasses the Pace Car and becomes the fourth car on the lead lap, along with Stewart, Edwards and Johnson.

Lap 314 (86 remaining): Johnson is penalized by NASCAR for an errant tire on pit road, forcing him to restart at the rear of the field.

Lap 318 (82 remaining): Numerous cars take advantage of NASCAR’s “wave around” procedure, passing the Pace Car and putting themselves back on the lead lap. They take their place at the back of the pack, restarting behind a number of lapped machines.

The field forms-up for the restart, with Stewart on the inside of the front row and Edwards alongside.

While scrubbing tires for the impending restart, Edwards crosses the start/finish line ahead of Stewart, causing RIR’s automated scoreboard to erroneously display him as the leader. A FOX television graphic also displays Edwards as the leader.

Edwards is informed by spotter Jason Hedlesky that he is, in fact, being scored as the leader. (Hedlesky subsequently claims a NASCAR official confirmed that Edwards was the leader of the race; a statement the sanctioning body denies.) Edwards assumes that as the leader, he is in control of the impending restart.

Stewart WAS the leader
Lap 319 (81 remaining): Edwards accelerates in Turn Four, prior to entering NASCAR’s mandated “restart box.” The green flag flies and Edwards beats Stewart to the start/finish line by a wide margin. He is immediately black-flagged by NASCAR for jumping the restart and pits to serve his penalty, forfeiting any chance for victory.

While the situation was confusing at the time, the facts in hindsight clearly indicate that Stewart – not Edwards – was the rightful leader of the race. While many fans (and a handful of media members) still are unclear about the events that unfolded Saturday night, there are four indisputable facts that make the situation much easier to understand…

FACT ONE: Edwards and his team erroneously assumed NASCAR had made a “late call” designating him as the leader. "Jason Hedlesky told me I was the leader,” said Edwards after the race. “I did everything I could to beat Tony down into Turn One. I had no clue they were going to black-flag me afterward.”

“It was very confusing," agreed crew chief Bob Osborne. "We rely on NASCAR to tell us how we came off pit road and where we were supposed to line up. Unfortunately, a late call made it much more confusing than what it really was. When you have to make a split-second decision based on information coming over the radio, it's a lot harder than when you have time to digest what's going on.”

FACT TWO: Scoring pylons and television “crawls” are unofficial. Track scoreboards and television graphics are based on raw transponder data, and are intended only to help fans and viewers keep up with the race. Lineups are frequently adjusted by NASCAR prior to restarts, and no restart lineup or finishing order is official until confirmed by the sanctioning body.

In short, it’s dangerous to assume, without being in possession of all the facts.

FACT THREE: If Edwards had been the leader of the race, NASCAR would have allowed him to choose his lane for the restart. Despite a good deal of confusion in the spotter’s stand and pit area, NASCAR never wavered in designating Stewart as the rightful leader of the race. The sanctioning body indicated as much by allowing the defending series champion to select the advantageous inside line for the restart. “Coming to the one to go, they knew (Stewart) was the leader and (Edwards) was second,” said NASCAR’s Robin Pemberton. “It's as clear as that."

FACT FOUR: Edwards’ Lap 319 restart was illegal, whether he was the leader or not. NASCAR mandates that all restarts must occur within a designated “restart box.” Lines are clearly painted on the wall, delineating the parameters of this box. Drivers are told every week in their pre-race driver’s meeting that failing to honor the boundaries of the restart box will result in a black flag.

Numerous television replays show that Edwards restarted well before entering the box, leaving Stewart in his wake. Stewart may (or may not) have compounded the situation by spinning his tires, or intentionally laying back to make Edwards’ infraction more apparent. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter.

When Edwards gassed up his No. 99 Ford before reaching the restart box, he sealed his own doom.  


  1. Anonymous12:26 PM

    Thank you for putting this into black and white so clearly. The breakdown makes it more understandable.

  2. Karen Harris12:52 PM

    Dave, I generally agree with you, but have to disagree this time. When you say "well" before entering the box, that is misleading. Based on the repeated replays on TV, he was very close to the box when he restarted. Did you hear the call over the NASCAR radio whether Tony or Carl was leader? How do we know exactly what was said by NASCAR and heard by the driver and the team? I think it was a bad call.

    1. Brandon in TN11:15 AM

      Karen you say, "he was very close to the box when he restarted." Close or well before doesn't matter, he still started before the box. He's guilty.

  3. On Fact Three, If nascar Officals had announced on the drivers radio " Car 14 your the leader choose inside/outside row 1 for the restart" ..If they didn't do this, then they should have, and should do this on every restart.

    1. So putting the Pace Car right in front of the 14 car wasn't clear enough?

  4. Anonymous2:02 PM

    The only thing that I'm still confused about is why some drivers are allowed to give the spot back with a warning and Carl was not. There is not a clear rule on that when this kind of thing happens.

    1. Anonymous4:13 PM

      Carl could have give it back but he was so far up he would have lost several positions to give it back. He jumped anyway it wouldn't mattered

    2. See fact #4: Carl jumped the restart, whether he was the leader or not. The only "spot" you can give back for this violation is to ALL the cars on the lead lap. The penalty is the same.

  5. Anonymous2:41 PM

    Think you did a great job of explaining this Cause thats what I saw on Sat...Yes he was close to the box ...But this isn't horse shoes ...He did jump it ..tough break....It's not like things worked out for Tony either Earner

  6. Anonymous5:08 PM

    I still think this was completely unfair. Why did the 3 cars that were behind carl and passed Stewart before the start finish line get penalized? Also why would Carl's spotter lie and say an official told him he is the leader if he was not?

    1. The three cars that were behind Carl did not get penalized, because by that point, Tony was running very slowly. Either he spun his tires BIGTIME, or was just coasting to point out that Carl had jumped the restart. And nobody has accused Carl's spotter of lying. It's a very loud environment and everyone is wearing noise-cancelling headphones, so it's easy to be misunderstood.

  7. Anonymous5:20 PM

    Dave, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I told my DH: we will see what Dave Moody has to say about this.

  8. Ok explain why Joey Logano wasn't black flagged? He almost beat Tony to the restart box (and certainly beat him by many car lengths to the start finish line) he did eventually give the spot back many laps later when Tony chased him down. Seems he deserved the Flag as well?

  9. Anonymous7:04 PM

    No matter how much anyone hammers who was first or not, the race is long over, Kyle won, and that's that. You may be able to pick up spilt milk with a paper towel, but you aren't changing the mind of NASCAR.

    Doug from NJ

  10. Anonymous7:05 PM

    So then, Tony should of been black-flagged also, because he floored it and spun his tires B/4 the boxed area. All Edwards did was took off at same time Tony did. Otherwise what if Tony had lost control or run out of gas at the start? Then Edwards would of been okay to go by him/

  11. Anonymous9:13 PM

    Dave, I was there Saturday night not too far from your vantage point in the grandstands. I'm a HUGE Carl fan and I knew imediately he jumped the restart! However, he may have been coaxed into it by feeling he was not allowed to choose the restart lane. In all my years of attending and watching races I don't ever recall seeing the scoring pylon not have the correct lineup, especially the leader. I cannot beleive that this is the first time a second place car reaches the S/F line before the true leader on the one-to-go lap. If there was ANY doubt they should have put the lights back on and make sure EVERYONE was clear as to position.

  12. Anonymous10:48 PM

    Sorry if this has already been covered, but Stewart had been spinning his tires all night. I believe he did just that. I personally don't believe he laid back there.

  13. Anonymous10:54 PM

    plus, they're not going to penalize any cars for passing Stewart if he spun his tires.

  14. When the Godfather speaks people listen(to the truth).Thanks Dave.

  15. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Excellent clarification Mr. Moody.

    You have shot down the black helicopters once again.