Restarts were a hot topic in the drivers meeting before Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The questions came a week after Austin Dillon took off on a restart, leaving leader Carl Edwards behind. Earlier this week, Ryan Blaney was penalized by NASCAR for starting too soon while leading the Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol. Blane recovered to win that race.
After a video presentation of the race’s rules, Richard Buck, managing director of the Cup series, highlighted certain aspects to competitors. Among the topics he noted to drivers was restarts.
“Starts and restarts,” Buck said. “We need everybody’s help tonight to tighten up the starts and restarts. That means nose-to-tail, door-to-door. It’s a small restart zone, we all know that, so we need everybody’s help. The leader is the control car and it’s his responsibility or her responsibility to bring the field down at the caution car speed and restart at the restart zone.”
Competitors are allowed to ask questions at the end of the meeting, leading to the following discussion about restarts.
Car owner Chip Ganassi: “Richard, you said on the screen, no brake-check, so if you get brake-checked is that a penalty for that car?
Buck: “It’s the responsibility of the field, everybody in the field, to bring the field down at a normal level. Once the caution car has left, it’s the (leader’s) responsibility to bring the field down at that same speed and restart in the restart zone. If there’s gamesmanship going on, we have people in the tower that are watching it and multiple cameras and we’ll judge on that.”
That led to the following exchange.
Carl Edwards: “How can you tell if the leader is going or not. Last week the second-place car and I never went and there was no penalty. Are you guys going to enforce that?”
Buck: “For all of us, Carl, to manage this, OK, we don’t went to get in and micromanage it, that’s for you to do it. We reviewed it in the tower multiple times. We have multiple cameras, multiple resources to do that and we reviewed it and deemed that it was a good restart.”
Edwards: “Well, but it wasn’t. Do you have a way to tell when the leader pushes the throttle.”
Buck: “We appreciate your enthusiasm. We do. We reviewed it and we reviewed it not only during the race and deemed it a good start but we also reviewed it after the race.”
Edwards: “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to run it into the ground. If you’re saying it’s the leader’s responsibility, do you have a way to see if the leader pushed the throttle or not?”
Buck: “We also have multiple resource and multiple people that watch that, OK? As Chip’s question alluded to, there’s a lot of gamesmanship going on, but we need you guys to do to be nose-to-tail, door-to-door, be in line when you come to the start. The control car’s responsibility is to restart in the restart zone or we will restart it. If there’s a judgment call that has to be made, we will make that.”
Denny Hamlin: “Can’t we just go back to the second-place guy cannot pass cannot (cross the line) before the first-place guy?”
Buck: “That’s a longer discussion that we can have. OK, we appreciate the input, but it is the way it is today.”
Clint Bowyer then made a comment about how, in his opinion, the only time a driver is penalized for jumping a restart is in the Truck series.
Buck: “Trust me, we’ll reinforce the rule and I hope you are not it.”