Ryan Blaney’s restart penalty sign of NASCAR’s vigilance but leaves questions

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney doesn’t know what more he could have done on the restart he was penalized for during Saturday’s Sprint Showdown.

His question raises an issue as NASCAR officials have scrutinized starts and restarts more closely the last two weekends. This could play a role in Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.

NASCAR penalized Blaney for jumping a restart with one lap left in the opening segment of the Sprint Showdown. The penalty forced Blaney to start at the rear in the second segment and played a role in him not advancing to the All-Star event.

Chase Elliott was the leader and on the bottom lane while Blaney was next to him on the outside lane when trouble occurred.

“(Elliott) was spinning his tires on the bottom and (Trevor Bayne) was pushing me,’’ Blaney said. “I was half-throttle on the brakes, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve got someone driving me forward and (Elliott) is spinning his tires and I don’t know what I could have done to stop. I really don’t.’’

All that mattered to NASCAR was that Blaney jumped the restart.

Sprint Cup drivers called for NASCAR to be more strict on officiating restarts last year. NASCAR has been particularly vigilant lately. Officials penalized Cole Custer for jumping a restart in last week’s Camping World Truck Series race at Dover. The next day, officials penalized Elliott Sadler for jumping a restart in his Xfinity heat race.

“(Sadler) got screwed,’’ said Greg Biffle, who won the second segment of the Sprint Showdown and advanced to the All-Star race.

Biffle noted that in Sadler’s case, leader Daniel Suarez spun his tires and Ty Dillon pushed Sadler.

“(Sadler) didn’t do anything to aggravate that start,’’ Biffle said. “(Suarez) spun his tires. There’s got to be a compensation factor. If that man spun his tires, you’ve got to say that’s on you.’’

That’s not what NASCAR is doing. They’re calling it close as drivers wanted last year.

“I don’t think you should ever make rules that you can’t police and they have that rule on the restart and they’ve got a lot of flak for not policing them, so now they’re policing them,’’ Matt Kenseth said. “I’m OK with that and yeah, they’ve been calling them really, really close, but I restarted second at least two or three times last weekend (at Dover) and I knew that I could not start before the leader and I knew I could not beat him out of the box, and that’s the way it should be.’’

Kevin Harvick said that a restart infraction is a “pretty black-and-white call.

“I think they probably didn’t view it as that until we were like, it just needs to be black or white,’’ he said. “You’re either good or you’re bad. When I started in this sport, in a rookie meeting that was the first thing they tell you. You’re on the front row, the second-place car does not beat the leader to the line, ever; spinning tires, no matter what. The leader has earned the right to be the leader.’’