Sunday, July 29, 2012

Keselowski Wins, Sadler Fumes In Controversial Indy Nationwide Debut

Brad Keselowski claimed the checkered flag in Saturday’s inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series “Indiana 250” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but not before a controversial, late-race ruling saw leader Elliott Sadler black-flagged for jumping the final restart. 

Keselowski's win was controversial
Sadler and Keselowski restarted side-by-side with 18 laps remaining Saturday, with Sadler (the second-place driver) beating Keselowski to the start/finish line by more than a car length. That is a violation of Section 10-2-A of the NASCAR Nationwide Series rule book, which states, “when the green flag is displayed by the starter, cars must maintain position as designated by NASCAR Officials until they have crossed the start/finish line, and the No. 2 position must not beat the No. 1 position to the start/finish line.”  

Having beaten Keselowski to the line, Sadler’s only recourse was to “give back” the position by allowing Keselowski to reclaim the lead. He failed to do so, and NASCAR black flagged the Nationwide Series point leader, ending his bid for a second consecutive series victory. 

Keselowski went on to win the race, while Sadler claimed a bitterly disappointing 15th-place finish that left him clinging to a one-point lead over Austin Dillon in the championship standings. After the race, an angry Sadler claimed he was a victim of unclear rules and selective enforcement by NASCAR. 

“I did not jump the start,” said Sadler to’s Dustin Long after the race. “The video clearly shows (Keselowski) going first, beating me to the restart line. (Hornish) then hit (Keselowski), getting him really loose and spinning his tires. (Austin Dillon) was also pushing me, so it’s not like I can stop. We just got a better restart and beat them to the start/finish line.  

“It’s just like him missing a shift,” claimed Sadler. “Do I stop and wait for (Keselowski) to get his shifting right? Do I stop and let him (stop spinning) his tires? I don’t know the protocol and (NASCAR) did not give me one.’’

Team owner Richard Childress went a step further, accusing Keselowski of slowing intentionally in an attempt to earn his driver the black flag. “He went first and was in front of Elliott at the start,” said Childress. “Then he checked up like he does every week and false-started.” 

“(Sadler) did not jump the restart,” confirmed NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton afterward. “But the rules are that he cannot beat the No. 1 starter to the line (and) he clearly did that. He had him cleared by the time they got to the start-finish line (and) made no attempt to give it back.” 

Sadler disappointed... and confused
 “This is a tough one to swallow,” said a disappointed Sadler. “We really wanted to win this inaugural race. My heart was definitely ripped out my chest and I don’t know why. I honestly can stand here right now and tell you I have no idea what I did wrong and NASCAR really can’t tell me what I did wrong either.’’ 

Saturday’s controversy was exacerbated by debate over the race’s initial start, when Kyle Busch beat polesitter Kasey Kahne to the green flag, but was not sanctioned.  

"When we displayed the green flag, the leader of the race did not go," explained Pemberton. "In our judgement -- and on the replays -- the leader absolutely didn't go. That's why there was a no-call on that." 

"This was the first time I'd ever seen them throw the green that early,” said a puzzled Kahne afterward. “I was looking at the restart line and I'm like, 'OK, we just got by.’ I'm getting ready to take off, (then) Kyle took off and they threw the green. I wasn't ready to go yet, but they threw the green." 

Told of Pemberton's explanation, Kahne said NASCAR is inconsistent in its handling of starts and restarts. "To me, it should be a consistency thing,” he said. “The flagman should know where the (expletive) restart line is, and if he doesn't, then go look. I start about 55 NASCAR races a year, and that was the first one they started so soon. I was like, 'Holy (crap), are you kidding me?"

Few would argue that NASCAR should enforce its restart rule to the letter. No one wants to see a driver black flagged for beating the leader to the line by 1/1000th of a second on the final restart. In the absence of concrete, inflexible enforcement, race officials must have the discretion to determine how much of a restart advantage is too much.  

Unfortunately, when judgement calls are made, someone is always going to be unhappy.

Clearly, NASCAR judges restarts differently than they do the initial green flag. And according to the published rules, they should. Section 10-2.B of the Nationwide rulebook makes no mention of the initial start, speaking only of restarts when discussing the so-called restart zone.  

All restarts shall be made at designated zone on the race track,” reads the rule, “and will be made known to the drivers in the Pre-Race driver's meeting.”

"It's a difficult call at best," admitted Pemberton. "We use every means that we can. We've got a lot of video up there. There are plenty of people up there… to look at these types of situations.” He also alluded to possible changes in NASCAR procedure, saying, “Moving forward, as the competition continues to close, you never know what will come out of things like this."


  1. Anonymous5:11 PM

    What's fair is fair, if you're NASCAR and instant replays aren't part of the program. Sadler got screwed. Period.

  2. Anonymous6:12 PM

    Moving forward - how about a green light on the flagman's stand. When it goes green, you go. The end. No excuses. No gray area.

  3. Michael in SoCal10:39 AM

    Once the green flag flies, it's a race. There is no reason for a rule that says the first place car has to pass the flagstand first.

  4. Anonymous1:46 PM

    What ie the purpose of the green flag? Dont wave it if you dont want the field to go green and race. Sounds simple right. Well NASCAR needs to learn the KISS system.

  5. Anonymous4:57 PM

    Brad should be ashamed of himself. He's running the Nationwide series for baubles and trinkets, Elliot et al are running for a championship. If it was a series regular playing start-stop games that is one thing, but BK is a, in theory, a superior driver in ostensibly better equipment. He has no reason to to play Saturday night short track hoodwinks with guys trying to win a series, just so he can get another dust catcher on his mantle.
    Respect and courtesy, breeds respect and courtesy on the track. It's very possible BK may find himself in a very tight points battle for the cup championship, later on this year. He may very well be in need of a little respect and courtesy on the trck, and his high school hijinks from July 28, 2012 may just bite him in the tailpipe.
    And for the record, I like BK. He's one of the best and brightest of the most recent crop of young guns.

    Rick in Indiana