NASCAR heads into this race weekend with fans asking a lot of questions about restarts.
The issue gained notice when Elliott Sadler was penalized for jumping a restart in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It raised the question: What does a driver do when he is running alongside the race leader, who struggles on a restart?
That’s the situation Sadler found himself in. Sadler passed Brad Keselowski on a late-race restart, but then NASCAR officials ruled that he jumped the restart by speeding up too early and black-flagged him, forcing him to come down pit road. Sadler later said that Keselowski spun the tires on the restart. After penalizing Sadler, NASCAR once again faced the fans’ question: What exactly was the violation? Why can’t we come up with a solution to eliminate this?
We have seen these situations a lot more this season than we have in recent years. Competition, guys trying too hard, guys have new tires on. I think we’re getting confused on when the rules are being adhered to versus when common sense should be in play.
That said, I know when I was competing restarts were confusing. Guys are pushing one another, and then if the leader does not get off, what do you do once this occurs? I hope NASCAR is talking to the competitors as well as the owners to try to come up with a better solution.
What worries me more than anything else is the fans. I don’t think it’s good for our sport when you’ve got fans saying, “I’m not watching NASCAR any more because they’re always out to do somebody wrong.”
I don’t think many sports would survive very well if the fans turned against them because of a rule interpretation. For that reason, I believe NASCAR needs to come up with an adjustment here that will benefit not only our sport but our fans, so if something occurs and a ruling does come down, our fans will say, “I get it, I understand it.” It needs to be black and white.
Right now, in our fans’ minds, there is indecision and gray areas, and they’re the ones I’m worried about the most right now. Competitors are going to do what they’re told and they’ll suck it up, and in the long run, they’ll know that if a rule goes against them, well, it just goes against them.
But when you’ve got your fans that are so confused and so upset that they are threatening to quit the sport, you do not need that. We do not need that in our sport right now.
Maybe it’s time for us to step back and come up with a better solution or even a better explanation for what we’ve got going on with starts and restarts.