Before I commented on Saturday Nights Sprint Cup race at RIR, I wanted to ingest and digest all of the information about what happened after the Lap 90 caution brought out by Jeff Burton’s trip into the outside wall. After all, this is where the comedy of errors, mistakes and judgement calls cost us, The Fans, what was setting up to be a possible exciting finish to an otherwise pretty dull race.
This fiasco removed most of the drivers with a chance to give us some excitement. The cars that had run strong all night and seemed to have a chance to win the race were, the #14, #99, #48 and after the previous pit stop, the #18. If you watched the broadcast on Fox like I did, you heard Kyle Busch tell Crew Chief Dave Rodgers to take out all the previous changes and put the car back like it was, after the Kurt Busch caution. This move, I felt put him back in the picture. Sorry Dale Jr. fans, he ran good all night, but was just a touch away from being strong enough to compete with the leaders.
Start of the errors. Jimmie Johnson was just getting to his pit box for what was to be a Green Flag stop, worst thing in the world is to be stuck on pit road when a caution comes out. His rear tire carrier left his position without the old tire, so this caused the the jack man to have to roll the tire to the wall. That’s a NO-NO, someone always has to have control of the tires. This move produced a penalty that put JJ at the end of the lead lap cars. One down.
Tony Stewart also had a miscue on pit road, and was trying to get back on the track prior to Carl Edwards, who did not pit. Enter the electronic scorers. The transponders on the cars, which are tasked with keeping up with car positions, reported that Carl had passed Tony and was in fact leading the race. This result was posted on the scoring marquee, and Carl and his spotter thought they were leading the race.
As you know, during double file restarts, the leader is allowed the privilege of selecting whether he wants to be in the left or right lane. Carl, thinking Nascar had made a mistake and wanting to be low on the track, decided to jump the restart a little to get his advantage back. This is where the rules are a little hazy. Drivers are not supposed to accelerate prior to the restart box, which are lines painted on the wall, but Nascar doesn’t usually complain about a little fudging once in a while.
Most of the drivers had been having trouble all evening with wheel spin on restarts. Tony Stewart had been having a little more trouble than the other drivers, and had excessive spin on that restart. The question everyone has is, did Tony deliberately slow down to make Carl’s obvious jump a little more obvious? Never the less, Carl was Black Flagged and sent to the rear. Two Down.
The Race God must have known what Tony Stewart did and produced a Caution for Debris on the Track with 10 laps to go, which turned out to be a water bottle. Go figure! Tony lost some positions on pit road and Kyle Busch, having an excellent stop, came out as the new leader. Now we get a green white checkered restart with all the good cars back in the pack and a somewhat boring finish to a boring race.
Kyle jumped out to a pretty good lead on the restart and left Dale Jr. and Denny Hamlin fighting for second place, and drove to the checkerd flag with ease for his fourth consecutive RIR spring race.
If Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch had all been together at the end, I think it would have been interesting. Might have had a great finish and something else to talk about this week instead. Carl Edwards and Jack Rousch were invited to the Nascar hauler for what was probably a slap on the hand for jumping the restart, after the race. The report that came from Robin Pemberton, the head of Nascar’s rules department, was that Carl had indeed broken the rules and was Black Flagged accurately. Now it’s on to Talladega.