|Earnhardt: :We know the rules."|
With the championship Chase just two weeks away, a number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are calling on the sanctioning body to crack down on restart violations.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday night that it is time for NASCAR to begin policing its restart policies with a stronger hand, penalizing drivers who jump the green flag or pass before the start/finish line.
“All the drivers really want is for NASCAR to police that stuff with a stern hand,’’ said Earnhardt Saturday. “We know the rules. You see a guy breaking the rule and you just want to see NASCAR come down on people. I say that now, and I will probably jinx the hell out of myself and do something stupid next week, but you just want NASCAR to run the show like you read in the rulebook.’’
“In the XFINITY race at Watkins Glen… (I saw) so many guys pull out of line before the start/finish line and pass people going into Turn One. I’m like ‘What the hell? It’s right there in front of you. Hell, I can see it and I’m watching on TV!’”
NASCAR rules mandate that that “the leader of the race will control the restart within the designated restart zone,” and that drivers “maintain their track position/lane … until they have crossed the start/finish line.” Unfortunately, every restart is different, placing NASCAR in a position of deciding whether violations are egregious enough to warrant a potentially race-altering penalty.
|Bowyer: “When there are rules, you enforce them."|
Restarts were a major topic of conversation in Saturday night’s pre-race drivers meeting, when driver Carl Edwards questioned Sprint Cup Series managing director Richard Buck about a restart the week before at Michigan International Speedway, where he felt second-place driver Austin Dillon jumped the green flag without being penalized.
Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, leader Ryan Blaney was penalized by NASCAR for jumping an early restart in the Camping World Truck Series race, prompting Edwards to ask, “Are you going to enforce that?”
Buck said NASCAR does not want to “micromanage it,” leading to a series of questions by drivers about what is – and isn’t – going to be allowed in coming weeks.
Earnhardt said he believes restart rules are enforced more stringently in the Camping World Truck Series than they are in Sprint Cup, saying, “It seems like in the Truck Series, they really get after them guys and smack (them) on the back of the hand when they screw up. But in the Cup Series, they have kind of let stuff here. Like they say, it’s a judgment call. But you want them to (err) on the side of the penalty.”
Saturday night’s winner, Joey Logano, said he also has questions about what is permissible.
“I spent a lot of time with NASCAR this week, trying to understand what I can and can’t do; being able to understand where their head is at, what they’re thinking when they look at a restart, what’s right and what’s wrong and what they’re going to police and not going to police.’’
Fifth-place finisher Clint Bowyer said he also wants the sanctioning body to be more stringent in its enforcement of restart rules.
“I understand they don’t want to step in, but nonetheless, it’s a rule,’’ said Bowyer. “When there are rules, you enforce them one way or another. I know it’s a judgment call, but that’s why there’s two stripes.
“I’ve been racing at short tracks with that kind of rule my whole life. It doesn’t bother them to yank the point leader or the crowd favorite or anyone else to make that call.’’
Earnhardt equated restart rules to NASCAR’s technical standards, saying that giving teams an inch will encourage them to take a mile.
“Keep people honest, or else it’s just like… these engineers and crew chiefs” he said. “They are going to push the envelope on every rule. If you give us a little room out there as drivers, we are going to try to take it. We don’t want the sport run so loosely. We really want it to be structured very tight.”