LOUDON, N.H. – Sprint Cup series director Richard Buck said teams were given plenty of fair warning ahead of Brad Keselowski being black-flagged for jumping a restart at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“We made sure the rules were very clear to everybody in the last couple drivers meetings,” Buck said after Sunday’s Sylvania 300. “We made sure we got everybody informed.
“Today, during the race again, we reminded them on each restart before the race and on each restart about the rules. If we saw something that was creeping toward (a violation), we made sure we informed the spotter and crew chief, so they knew how we were thinking in the tower and what we were seeing. That’s what brought us to the decision on the restart.”
Keselowski, running second, was shown the black flag on the final restart with 58 laps remaining even though he didn’t pass leader Greg Biffle. Buck said NASCAR ruled that Keselowski accelerated in the restart zone ahead of Biffle, who controlled the restart as the leader. NASCAR marks a zone off Turn 4 during which a leader restarts the race.
Keselowski said NASCAR made an example out of him with the call.
“It’s an entertainment sport, not a fair sport, but we had a great car,” said Keselowski, who rebounded to finish 12th after falling to 25th.
“The first person to ever be penalized for jumping a restart when I didn’t pass anyone, so that’s a new one, but we moved on and we made the most of a good day with the Miller Lite Ford and got a solid finish.”
Buck intimated that NASCAR didn’t factor Keselowski’s positioning into the call.
“We reviewed it, and that wasn’t part of the equation at all today,” Buck said when asked if Keselowski wouldn’t have been penalized if he had been viewed as yielding the spot.
So the interpretation is a driver doesn’t have to gain a position to be penalized?
“We’ve articulated that quite a few times in the drivers meetings as well as anytime anyone asks,” Buck said. “We have an open-door policy. We have said it very clearly in the drivers meeting. The leader is the control car and has earned the right to restart the race in the restart zone. If the leader hasn’t restarted the race by the single red line, then we take over, and we will throw the flag, and that restarts the race.”
Restarts have been a hot topic in NASCAR the past month, and Buck addressed it before last week’s playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.
But NASCAR didn’t say specifically that drivers would be punished without gaining a spot (Kyle Busch suggested last week that competitors should be allowed to give back a spot without facing a black flag, one of many suggestions made by stars about how NASCAR should police restarts).
NASCAR began positioning a “senior official” near the restart box at Chicagoland. On Sunday, Camping World Truck Series director Elton Sawyer and Chad Little were watching restarts from the end of the pits.
“We wanted that input,” Buck said. “It’s on the ground with a senior official. You really get a 3-D, with all your senses of a human being, and that helps confirm what you’ve seen on the tape and make sure you haven’t missed it. And we did get 100% confirmation on the ground as well as what we saw on the tapes and the data available to us.”
Buck said it helped make the black flag on Keselowski “fairly clear cut in our mind. Based on the video we have, the different angles we have.
“Sometimes, it can tell a portion of the story,” Buck said. “So we like to try to put together that three-dimensional video from all the data and video we get. By having that individual on the ground directly across from the restart box with eyes, ears, all their human senses, they can really get a good understanding to close that picture up and allow us to feel 100% that we stamped it with a very good decision.”
Did it send a message to NASCAR teams about how it would judge Chase drivers on restarts in the future?
“Most importantly, we listen to the garage,” Buck said. “We listen to what they say. They wanted clarity. We gave them clarity.
“It’s very clear and very defined in the regulations. We’re not out to get anybody. We’re the keeper and enforcer of the rules. All anybody asks for is to be treated fairly. We believe we did our job today.”
Buck said he hadn’t met with Keselowski, Penske or anyone from the No. 2 Ford after the race but would be willing to share video and data with any team representatives.
“We’ll talk to the crew chief, team manager, team owner,” he said. “It’s part of the educational process to help them understand how we made that call. So they have a true understanding going forward.”
Dustin Long contributed to this report