Here we go again.
Jimmie Johnson returns to Victory Lane, and suddenly NASCAR’s rule book comes under attack. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and probably won’t be the last.
It may not seem fair. But due to past instances, I have to raise this question: Was the penalty that NASCAR handed out to Marcos Ambrose on Sunday at Infineon Raceway wrong?
For those of you who don’t know what happened, let me bring you up to speed. Ambrose was leading with 5 laps to go on Sunday at Sonoma when a caution came out. When he shut down his engine in a fuel-saving maneuver, Ambrose’s car stalled on the track. According to NASCAR “rules”, if you are unable to maintain pace car speed, you forfeit your position and are scored wherever you resumed pace car speed.
While that may seem pretty cut and dry, past instances have allowed exceptions to be made.
A very infamous instance came two years ago at Michigan, when Dale Earnhardt Jr., in an effort to save fuel, shut down his engine and coasted past the pace car(which is illegal in itself). When his coasting car slowed down to a speed slower than that of the pace car, several other cars on the track passed him as well. But Earnhardt was allowed to retain his position as the leader, and went on to win the race.
There have also been several cases in which cars have stalled following a red flag, and are passed by several cars that are going pace car speed. Those cars have always been allowed a push from a push-truck to get them re-fired, and are allowed to retain their position.
So if the drivers in these cars were allowed to retain their position while not maintaining pace car speed, why wasn’t Ambrose allowed to do the same? If these drivers have gone without penalty, doesn’t that mean that Marcos Ambrose’s penalty was wrong?