NASCAR address restarts with drivers

Hoping to avoid a repeat of the controversial finish to the Nationwide Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NASCAR official David Hoots delivered a stern lecture during the drivers’ meeting before Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

Hoots told drivers that the race leader is responsible for accelerating smoothly on a restart, while the second-place driver – and everybody behind him – must let the leader cross the start/finish line first.

”I think we’re all very capable of getting up to speed and not taking advantage of the situation,” Hoots said.

Still, some drivers walked away from the meeting wondering what they’re supposed to do if they’re stuck in the same position that Elliott Sadler was on Saturday.

Sadler was penalized for jumping the restart near the end of the race. Sadler said race leader Brad Keselowski slowed unexpectedly when he appeared to spin his tires on the restart, and Sadler had no choice but to keep going because he was getting pushed by the cars behind him.

In the meeting, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson asked why officials couldn’t simply wave off a restart if it was too sloppy.

NASCAR President Mike Helton stepped in at that point, saying that officials would prefer to leave it up to the drivers to do it correctly. Helton said officials could penalize drivers back in the pack if they push the second-place car past the leader on a restart.

”I guess you could kind of, sort of, maybe say that this is your warning,” Helton said. ”If you’re on the second row, particularly today, and you try to shove a guy across the start/finish line, and we’re pretty clear or close to being clear, you’ve put us in a box now that we may react to that driver. We’re not going to let the whole race get screwed up because one guy’s overanxious.”

Sadler’s team owner, Richard Childress, still was fuming about the decision Sunday morning.

”I felt it was a poor call on their part, but at the end of the day, they make the calls and we have to live with them,” Childress said.

Childress said Sadler didn’t have any other choice but to go forward.

”He couldn’t do anything,” Childress said. ”He was being pushed. It’s just part of the deal, you know? What are you going to say?”

NASCAR Nationwide Series director Joe Balash said officials reviewed video of the incident before Sadler pulled off the track to serve the penalty.

”We reviewed the situation that took place,” Balash said. ”At the end of the day, the 2 car (Sadler) after all things that we looked at was clearly ahead of the leader and we made a decision.”

Balash reiterated that the first two drivers aren’t the only people with responsibilities on a restart.

”It’s clearly the responsibility of the whole front of the field to make sure that the restarts are done properly, and that includes the leader and the second-place car and really the rows behind it that there’s a nice, clean, clear restart,” Balash said.