Implored by drivers to act with greater castigation pertaining to the enforcement of its restart rules, NASCAR will commit a camera and official solely to monitoring the resumption of races effective immediately.
The change comes with the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship beginning Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. The procedural change is across all three NASCAR national divisions.
A NASCAR spokesman said a designated camera, re-purposed from other cameras overseeing pit road, will focus on the restart zone to record any questionable restarts. If an infraction is thought to have occurred, NASCAR will announce the corresponding restart is “under review” and conduct replays in real-time without interrupting the race.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” driver Joey Logano said Saturday. “I hope they bust somebody — and if it’s me, that’s fine. We’ve talked about it plenty of times. (NASCAR) needs to lay their foot down and take charge of what’s going on during these restarts. And hopefully they do.”
In recent weeks restarts have become free-for-alls with procedures either misinterpreted or flatly ignored. The most recent incident occurred when leader Matt Kenseth appeared to get the jump on the field during last Saturday’s regular-season finale at Richmond. Kenseth’s maneuver, which went unpunished, aided him in winning for the third time in six races and drew the ire of several competitors including Logano, who finished second.
“We need to be consistent with the calls,” Logano said Thursday during Chase Media Day in downtown Chicago. “If the call is that you can jump the start that is okay, just let us know. If the call is you can’t jump the restarts, let us know.
“It is a tough position for them and I understand where NASCAR is with it. It is a ball-and-strike call. But baseball does that every week with every pitch. They make a ball-and-strike call. A lot of times someone isn’t happy about it, but if it is something blatantly obvious you have to make the call. You have to do it.”
On restarts the leader is supposed to have the advantage by maintaining control entering the restart zone, marked by a single red line on the outside wall indicating the start and a double red line at the end. The leader can accelerate at any juncture in the zone signifying the race is green and the second-place driver is permitted to beat the leader to the start/finish — provided they don’t out-jump the leader in the zone.
Currently the dimension of the zone is determined by doubling the pit road speed at a given track — anywhere between 30 mph to 60 mph depending on the size of the track. This means the box is not standard from week-to-week and on a short track — where pit road speed is slower — the zone is considerably smaller.
But many drivers feel the zone is too small no matter the track, allowing the second-place driver to lay back and time when the leader accelerates — thus getting a running start. To counter, some leaders try to go before they’re in the restart box, as Kenseth did at Richmond.
“From everything I’ve heard, it was pretty obvious Matt went early,” Jeff Gordon said. “The thing is, though, he knows (NASCAR isn’t) going to call it. And until they call it, guys are going to continue to push that, mainly because the restart box isn’t big enough.
“The guy in second place has an advantage — they can anticipate the start because they know you’re going to start in that box. So of course, a driver is going to try to get any edge he can.”
Because of a rules package that makes passing difficult, restarts present the best opportunity to gain positions. That’s prompted drivers to take advantage of NASCAR’s apparent reluctance to officiate through the use of black flags.
“We need to know there is a chance [NASCAR] could black flag you for a poor restart,” Kyle Busch said. “And some of these guys I don’t think give a crap. They’re allowed to get away with it. You can’t have one guy be afraid of it and one guy not — everyone should be afraid of NASCAR stepping in.”
Busch is one of many drivers who’ve spoken out frequently regarding their preference for NASCAR to take a more direct measure either by eliminating any perceived gray area by making its restart rules more defined or applying penalties when warranted.
“All you’ve got to do is call somebody on it once — that will fix the problem,” Clint Bowyer said. “That’s all you have to do. I really believe we have a rule and I understand (NASCAR’s) intent of not wanting to get involved with that, but that’s not a good answer. Call them — whether it’s me or anybody else and if you do that once I won’t do it again.”