|Edwards dominated Saturday|
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|
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.