As the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, questions continue about how NASCAR officiates restarts.
Joey Logano, beaten by winner Matt Kenseth on the final restart at Richmond last weekend, raised concerns about NASCAR’s officiating of restarts during an interview Tuesday on “Tradin’ Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, while Kenseth defended his action during a separate media event.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier this week about officiating restarts that “we want to leave it in the drivers’ hands. If we have to get involved and make those calls with more video, I think we’ll do that.’’
Asked if NASCAR was putting an unfair amount of pressure on drivers by preferring to leave it in the drivers’ hands, Logano was adamant.
“We can’t police ourselves,’’ he said. “We’re race car drivers. Our job is to go out and win the race. We’ll take advantage of every opportunity there is.’’
Questions have been raised about restarts since the Bristol drivers meeting last month when Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and team owner Chip Ganassi spoke up about the topic. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after the race that NASCAR needed to better police restarts. Logano said after winning that race he had talked to NASCAR officials beforehand to understand what was allowed.
He said then that he had a better understanding on the issue.
Tuesday, Logano told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “I have a lot of questions about restarts. I think a lot of the drivers are looking for clarity on what we can and cannot do.’’
Logano was on the outside of Kenseth, who led, as they came to the final restart with 18 laps to go. Kenseth surged ahead. NASCAR did not penalize Kenseth for the restart and defended its actions this week.
Kenseth said he did what the leader should have done even if he started before the restart zone began.
“Richmond is one of those interesting places that the restart zone … is on the inside wall and it’s still in the corner,” Kenseth said. “I was looking at the inside wall, and I probably went a few feet before the inside mark. It’s not like I jabbed the gas and left him 20 car lengths. I made sure I got rolling and didn’t spin the tires. I think it would be hard pressed to find anybody, including the people that are probably complaining about it, to say that the fastest car didn’t win the race Saturday night. We proved that.”
Kenseth said he understand the restart rules and how NASCAR officiates that.
“They want you to keep an even pace and take off somewhere in the zone and we all understand that,” Kenseth said. “If you’re the leader, and the second-place guy is two car lengths behind you because he knows when you’re going to go, and this guy is on the outside of you and they get rolling toward you before you get going, I’m not going to be third when I get to Turn 1.
“The leader has to take some liberties to look around him and see what his competitors are doing because he is the leader and he should not be at a disadvantage. If the third-place car is two car lengths behind you, rolling toward that line knowing when you’re going to go, that’s a huge disadvantage on the leader. You saw me and Denny restart from the front row at exactly the line and had a car three-wide us and pass us going into Turn 1.
“As a driver you’ve got to do what you think you need to do within the rules to make sure you have your car out front to try to get that win at the end.”
Roger Penske, Logano’s car owner, was not happy about the non-call after the race, saying: “I think they’ve got to come up with some way to say what’s right or what’s wrong. To me, this is a perfect example of inconsistencies. When you’re racing for as tight as we are and everything that is on the line, you just can’t have that kind of officiating.’’
Logano admits he’s concerned about restarts because of the impact they could have in the Chase.
“Chance are the championship will come down to a late-race restart at Homestead, or getting into the next round could come down to a late-race restart at any given race track throughout this Chase,’’ Logano told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Nate Ryan contributed to this story.