As of Tuesday morning, race winner Matt Kenseth still hadn’t seen the restart that Brad Keselowski was black flagged for Sunday in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“Somehow I’ve missed it on my DVR,” Kenseth said when asked about his clarity on restart guidelines on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“Not to comment specifically on this weekend or the penalty, because obviously, I didn’t see it. I think the rule is fairly clear,” Kenseth said. “It’s always been a ball-and-strike call.”
Keselowski, who restarted second to Greg Biffle, was penalized for an early jump on the restart.
“I did not see what happened this weekend but if the leader was not the first one out of that box and he wasn’t first one to get started and there was a penalty for the second-place guy, there probably should have been,” Kenseth said, adding that the restart rule is “really as simple” as the leader being the first to accelerate and the first out of the restart box.
“If they start enforcing that and making sure the leader has the advantage, then you’re not going to have the issue any more,” Kenseth continued. “In my opinion, you have to make sure the leader is taken care of. I think the leader should always have the advantage, He earned that. He is the leader. He should always restart the race. The rule they changed about a year and a half ago is that the leader has to restart the race in that box and the leader has to be the first one out of that box.”
The debate over what defines a clean restart began during the last Bristol race week.
It then returned at Richmond International Raceway in the final regular-season race. Team owner Roger Penske raised questions about Kenseth’s final restart. NASCAR defended its non-call and said it wanted “to leave it in the drivers’ hands.”
“The argument came from Richmond saying that I went early,” Kenseth said. “I’m not going to let the second-place guy beat me to the start-finish line and (then I) come off Turn 2 in third place after I worked so hard and led 300 laps and dominated the race with 20 laps to go on a restart.”
Restart confusion grew entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup, as driver Joey Logano said “we can’t police ourselves.”
The Chase began with NASCAR ruling that a restart by Jeff Gordon during the Chicagoland race was legal. Then came the final restart at New Hampshire. Keselowski showed his displeasure, saying after the race that NASCAR was an “entertainment sport, not a fair sport.”
NASCAR on NBC analyst Frank Stoddard compared the Keselowski restart to the non-call with Gordon at Chicagoland and said the penalty was uncalled for.
Kenseth, a five-time winner in 2015, believes the issue of restarts will take care of itself with NASCAR’s action.
“Once you know that the second-place guy has to play by the rules and the third-place guy has to play by the rules, the leader is going to start the race right every time because he doesn’t have incentive not to,” Kenseth said. “He knows the other guys aren’t going to mess with him and jump him and take advantage of him.”