Restart controversy all the rage entering Chase


CHICAGO – From lengthening the controversial zone where a leader controls the field to expanding NASCAR’s enforcement, every Chase for the Sprint Cup contender seemingly had an opinion about restarts Thursday.

It’s been the topic du jour for the past month in the Sprint Cup Series, where prerace driver meetings have drawn a plethora of questions from drivers, crew chiefs and team owners about the proper procedures. After a final restart Saturday at Richmond International Raceway by winner Matt Kenseth left rival team owner Roger Penske fuming at NASCAR for the lack of a penalty, it remained top of mind for title contenders entering Sunday’s playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon suggested NASCAR should lengthen the restart zone in which the leader is required to hit the accelerator. The distance of the zone in feet is the pit speed doubled – for example, if pit speed is 35 mph, the zone is 70 feet long.

“The first thing you’ve got to do is make the restart box bigger,” Gordon said. “I mean, we’ve been asking for this for a long time. It’s too small. We went from having it way too big to now it’s way too small.

“The box is so small that the guy who is in second place has an advantage. They can anticipate the start because they know you’re going to start in that box. So of course a driver is going to try to get any edge he can, and they’ve earned that right being the leader, and the leader is supposed to start the race. So that’s why guys are jumping.”

Gordon hadn’t seen a replay of Kenseth’s restart but said it wouldn’t be surprising if Kenseth left early because “he knows they’re not going to call it. And until they call it, guys are going to continue to push (the limit). And it’s mainly because the restart box isn’t big enough. If you make the restart box bigger, they’re not going to have to worry about calling that because now you can (go) anywhere in that box and get that edge you deserve (as the leader).”

NASCAR implemented double-file restarts six years ago, and the howls from competitors began almost immediately. For the 2013 Chase opener, a rule was changed to allow the second-place car to beat the leader to the starting line after gamesmanship prompted controversy.

Officials have maintained they want to leave the officiating in the drivers’ hands, but Kyle Busch said NASCAR needed to be more proactive in throwing the black flag for restart infractions.

“I’m not comfortable one bit with how they’re officiating it,” he said. “I think they need to step in. I think it’s gone too long. It’s really stupid the way some of these restarts are being handled by the drivers.”

Busch, who was in a precarious points position trying to make the Chase after missing the first 11 races of the season, said he had been punished by NASCAR’s laissez-faire policy.

“I’ve had it bite me,” he said. “I always have it in the back of my mind there’s a chance I’m going to get black-flagged for a bad restart or a poor choice in how I handle a restart. Some of these other guys, I don’t think they give a crap. They do whatever they want and get away with it.

“You can’t have one guy being scared of it and another guy taking advantage of not being afraid of it. You just have to start having everybody being afraid of NASCAR stepping in. … I have come to the conclusion myself that I can’t give NASCAR that opportunity to penalize me. I have to do it by the book and make sure it’s right so I don’t put it in their hands to make a bad choice because they’re really good at making bad choices for me.”

Busch said another option would be for drivers to return the positions gained by an unfair advantage on a restart. He suggested he would have done so if asked after passing Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin for the lead on a restart at Richmond.

“It’s probably the better thing to do to have the race still play out without having as big a penalty as if you were black-flagged and had to do a pass-through on pit road,” he said. “That kills your race.”

“If somebody is laying back and they get a run and pass a guy, if they want to give us the opportunity to fix it first, that’s fine. I’m OK with that. If somebody jumps a restart, if they give the lead up on the track or fall to second or third, but if they give it up and go back and race again, that’s OK in my book. You have a chance to fix it.

“But if you just flat out jump a restart and they don’t do anything about it, and it wins the race, that’s not what we need to be having happen.

What other Chase drivers were saying about restarts Thursday:

Kevin Harvick: “It’s very gray. I don’t think any of us really know for sure how far you can push it, but you have to push it because you can. How far is too far? I don’t think anybody really knows. If there’s going to be a restart zone, I would prefer it be pretty black and white as to how it’s managed. If there’s not going to be a restart zone, we just need to take the lines down and race like we did forever growing up with the leader being in control of the restart and going when you want to.”

Denny Hamlin: “I think drivers want longer restart zones. Ultimately now, it’s so short that if you don’t go right away, the second-place guy does – and knowing he can beat the first-place guy to the line, there’s no repercussions for it. At a local short track, (the box) is between (Turns) 3 and 4 and nearly the flagstand (where) the leader restarts the race. So the second-place person can’t anticipate that much. I think it would be better to open that zone up two or three times the size it is right now – and then don’t let that second-place guy be the first one to the line.”

Clint Bowyer: “NASCAR should do this: Call ‘em out. That’s all you’ve got to do. … All you’ve got to do is call somebody on ‘em once and that’ll fix the problem. I understand their intent of not wanting to get involved in that, but that’s not a good answer. Call ’em. Whether it’s me or anybody else. And if you do that once, I won’t do it again.”

Brad Keselowski: “I have said it before but I still view restarts as rock-paper-scissors, and you have to counter the moves of the person next to you. It starts with the leader in the zone, not being allowed to get there first. If the guy in second place is lagging back, the only defense is to go early, both of which are illegal by definition, and neither of which have been consistently called as an infraction. If one guy lags back and beats you, when you do everything legal, then you have to defend it. That’s your job. I felt like as the leader at Darlington, I probably had half a dozen or more attempts at controlling the restart, and I kept the lead the majority but not 100 percent of the time. The few times where I lost the lead it was very obvious that the car next to me had lagged back significantly and there was no call made. That forces your hand the next time you have the lead to do something to react to it. In a sense it is kind of vigilante justice. That is just how you have to play it.”

Joey Logano: “I just say we need to be consistent with the calls. If the call is that you can jump the start that is OK, just let us know. If the call is you can’t jump the restarts, let us know. Obviously there is talk about opening the box and all these other things. It is a tough position for them and I understand where NASCAR is with it. It is a ball and strike call. But baseball does that every week with every pitch. They make a ball and strike call. A lot of times someone isn’t happy about it, but if it is something blatantly obvious, you have to make the call. You have to do it. It is a tough position for them when you look at angles and when there is a race win or possibly a championship on the line, it could be a lot larger than what happened last weekend. Really all we need to know is what can and can’t we do and be consistent with that.”

Carl Edwards: “There’s still a lot of gray area there that I don’t think everyone in the garage understands exactly what is allowable and what’s not. There’s a lot of people that hang back pretty far and get runs. When you’re on the front row – let me put it simply as I think that the leader now he’s in a little bit worse of a position than he’s ever been probably on the restarts just because everyone is getting so good at hanging back or pushing the envelope. It’s tough to decide what to do as the leader.

“The restart is neat because it gives you an opportunity to get an advantage. It is tough and it’s a dynamic part of the race. It’s just where do you draw the line? Can I go 50 feet early or 100 feet early? If the leader doesn’t go, can I just go and beat him into Turn 1? I don’t know exactly what’s allowable and, yes, you don’t want to have the start happen and have no penalty thrown and have given up an advantage. Let me put it simply: If you do the restarts by the book – the way they say to go at it – you’ll get passed by about four guys every restart, so nobody really knows what to do.”

Kenseth:I think that they need to probably make some calls, and then we’ll get everybody more honest. When the second-place guy jumps the first-place car and it’s obvious, I think they need to make that call and then it won’t happen anymore. It’s just, I think, you’ve got to make that call. I think when the third-place guy lays back too far and gets a run and passes the whole front row before they get to Turn 1, I think they need to make that call. I think you make that call one time, two times, three times – whatever it may be – and it will stop.”

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Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.

What drivers said at WWT Raceway


Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:

Kyle Busch — Winner: “Just the restarts kind of went our way. We were able to get through on the outside on that one and push (Kyle) Larson out, then he took bottom of (Turns) 3 and 4, I was able to carry the momentum around the high side to take the lead. That was really important. I think that was kind of the key moment of us being able to win today. Being able to control the rest of the restarts for the rest of the race. Kyle is one of the best. It’s good to be able to sit up here and race hard with him, being a Team Chevy partner. He gave me great respect, I appreciate that. That will be given back down the road.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “Yeah, I thought we were super dialed if it was 95 degrees like it was supposed to be with those delays – it kind of took away from the advantage I thought that we had. I’m proud of this whole Sport Clips Toyota team – pit crew did a phenomenal job keeping us in it and doing really good on the money stop with about 60 to go. We are going to have to wait another to get that 50th (win).”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “I’m proud of the fight. We were mediocre – just outside the top five all day long. There was a group of cars that were a tick better than us. Then we executed at the end and beat a few of them. We tried some new things from last year, and we learned some lessons. But overall: Good. We needed a solid run. We’ve been going through hell here lately. So, it’s nice to get a top five, third place, and some points there in each stage. Good day.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 4th: “Proud of the effort today. It’s been a couple tough races. We’ve been so good all year long and the last few have been pretty bad and we’ve had to work on it quite a bit. The team got us in a place where we could contend for the win, so you can’t ask for much more than that. …  I wish I would have done a better job. When I was the leader, I hadn’t been at the front all day, so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know where people were running on restarts, and I didn’t know how hard they could go. I just got kind of caught off guard and lost the control.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 5th: “Started off the race near the front and stayed there through Stage 1 and thought we could get a little bit better and maybe have a shot at the couple, three in front of us. We had a pit road penalty and had to go to the back, and it was just an uphill climb from there. Just really tough to get through the field. We got some damage from when someone’s brake rotor exploded, that slowed us down even more. Really with all we went through today, a top-five is a really good day for us. I’m proud of the effort.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 6th: “We ran pretty good today. Won the second stage which was good, second in the first stage. Just kind of lost track position, lost the lead. Through a couple stops and restarts, we could just never really get it back. I thought that (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin) and I were similar. It was just a matter of who was out front. I just got a bad restart at the end and fell to sixth. But overall, it wasn’t a bad day. It was a good points day too, and we’ll keep going.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 7th: “The entire weekend was very solid for us. We barely missed the second run in qualifying and really, we missed it because of me and not because of the car. The car was capable of advancing. In the race, the car was strong right away. It was fun today and we really needed this as a team. We needed a result that we deserved, and I felt like lately it’s been a little difficult on us when it comes to that. Today, I felt like we deserved a top-10 or top-five and we came home seventh, so we will take it.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 9th: “We kind of learned last year that track position is super important. Taking two tires was an option last year, so we knew it’d be one this year. We did it early on and got track position, but we got spun out. So, went all the way to the back and then we put four on, and then you’re just buried back there. So, we had to go for it again, put two on and just left two on. We never took four again. There were a lot of laps on the left-side tires, but track position was super important. We had a great FR8 Auctions Ford Mustang, so I knew we could kind of hold our ground. Those last few cautions kind of hurt us a bit, but still came away with a Top-10. So, it was a good day.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 12th: “That was a long day – long race. There were a lot of cautions and red flags. It really started yesterday. I was in a little bit of a hole after qualifying, and I just didn’t do a good job. I had to dig out of that today. We had pretty good speed in our Fastenal Ford Mustang. I was pretty happy with it, and at times, had to move around the track quite a bit. I figured out Gateway really quickly. Not being able to run here last year, I felt a little behind getting going. Definitely found something there at the end. Honestly wish it was a 600-mile race because I felt like we could have kept getting better.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 13th: “Definitely frustrating having a speeding penalty … I’m a little frustrated with myself with that. You think something at the end of Stage 1 isn’t going to affect your race, but it just put us behind. We tried a bunch of strategy calls to get our Freightliner Ford Mustang up there. Had some good restarts at the end and made the most of it, I feel like. Those restarts got really scrappy. Proud of the team effort, proud of the recovery. Definitely a lot to clean up on my end to maximize what I thought was a Top-10 race car.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 14th: “We had an up-and-down day today fighting the balance in our No. 16 Chevy. I felt like we had a top-15 car most of the day, but we had to play defense to stay there. I wasn’t able to roll speed through the corner like I needed to be more aggressive and keep moving forward. We made a strategy call to take two tires, which didn’t work in our favor. Then we got caught up on pit road and restarted pretty far back at the beginning of the third stage. We’ll take a 14th- place finish after everything we battled with our car today and move forward to Sonoma.”

Justin Haley — Finished 16th: It was an up-and-down day for this No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection team. We fired off tight in traffic, and it was just hard to pass. My crew chief, Trent Owens, made some really good strategy calls and we had positive adjustments all day, despite a couple pit-road mishaps. We had another good Chevrolet hot rod, and we will take a 16th-place finish after a hard fought day.

Ryan Preece — Finished 17th: “That was a really long day. I fought a tight race car all day long and every time we came down pit road, my guys made really strong adjustments. It just wasn’t enough to get us to the front and stay there. There were so many cautions there at the end, I was just trying to save the car. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible day for us after qualifying 29th. The fans were out in full force today, too, that was awesome to see. We’ve just got to keep grinding for better finishes.”

Erik Jones — Finished 18th: “Just an up-and-down day for the No. 43 Chevy team. Didn’t end up how we wanted it to go, but we’ll go to work and get the car a bit better. I thought we had good speed, just didn’t have things go our way. We’ll work on it and hopefully go to Sonoma (Raceway) and have a solid day.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 19th: “We battled handing issues all day and just couldn’t find it. We were loose to start the day and it felt like our car was tight on aero and loose mechanically. Our long-run speed was really all we had today and we could pass cars late in the run, but we had so many cautions in the final stage we didn’t have the chance to run those cars down. Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) put me on offense on the last 20 laps with fresh tires and I thought we could’ve driven up to 15th, but someone missed a shift on the last restart and stacked us up and put us behind. Just one of those days. We had to battle to get all we could get.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 32nd: “We kept our track position just like we wanted to. We got stage points, and I felt like we had a top-eight or so car, which was a big difference from last year. Obviously we’re striving to be better everywhere. We had a really good streak going of really good runs. It looked like the No. 2 (Austin Cindric) just, for some reason, right-reared the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) and took both of us Chevy guys out, so that’s a bummer. We definitely had a top-10 car today.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 34th: “Our day kind of went bad early on, but our McDonald’s Camry was able to get through traffic pretty well, but as the track stated to cool off, it just started going away from us. It was starting to get frustrating out there for sure, to have a car that good, and it felt like it was just going away. I had a bad feeling that was coming soon. I was just getting ready to have to back off with how soft the brakes got, but I obviously should have been thinking about that a lap or two sooner.”

Carson Hocevar — Finished 36th: “I thought it was great. I had a blast. Just so thankful for the opportunity. I don’t have a job for next year. I know Al Niece and Cody Efaw wants me to run for them and I will forever run a race or however many. But man, I’m just so thankful that they gave me the opportunity – the opportunity to drive a Xfinity car and now driving a Cup car. I was running 16th.. just so surreal for the first time ever. I thought we were going to have a good day and be in a good spot for Schluter Systems, Celsius, Spire Motorsports, Ryan Sparks and the No. 7 Chevy team. Hopefully that call for a Cup ride isn’t the only one I get in my life.”

Cup results at WWT Raceway, driver points


Kyle Busch scored his third Cup victory of the season, winning Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway in overtime.

Busch is tied with William Byron for most victories this season. Busch and Byron have combined to win three of the last six Cup points races (two by Busch and one by Byron).

MORE: Cup race results at WWT Raceway

MORE: Cup driver standings after WWT Raceway

Denny Hamlin finished second. Joey Logano placed third. Kyle Larson overcame struggles early in the race to finish fourth. Martin Truex Jr. completed the top five.

Corey LaJoie finished 21st, driving the No. 9 for the suspended Chase Elliott.

Ryan Blaney placed sixth and took the points lead from Ross Chastain, who placed 22nd. Chastain fell to fifth in the standings.