HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Cole Whitt expressed remorse for the final restart but that won’t change the result for Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones, who each saw their chance of winning the Xfinity championship end as the green flag waved on the final restart with three laps to go.
“It was pretty disrespectful, really, and I strongly hope that somebody is able to talk to him about that,’’ Jones said about Whitt’s actions. “I’d really hate to see something like that happen again.
The situation unfolded after a late caution brought the field to pit road — except Whitt.
He said he did not pit because his team had used its allotment of tires. That meant he would be in front of the field on much older tires and have the championship contenders behind him.
Jones called Whitt’s action “kind of insane.’’
Whitt said he chose the outside line to give the contenders room to get by him if he didn’t get restarted quickly.
It seemed like a good idea. In theory.
But it didn’t work out that way. Whitt got a poor restart and blocked the cars in the top lane behind him. Jones and Allgaier never had a chance to race for the championship in those final laps, as Sadler and eventual winner and Xfinity champion Daniel Suarez pulled away from the bottom lane.
“We’re sitting here,’’ Allgaier said in the media center after finishing sixth, “and not standing on that (championship) stage over there like I think all of us would have liked to have been.’’
So why did Whitt do what he did?
“We didn’t expect everybody to come in like that, and next thing I knew I was like this is going to be handful,’’ Whitt said after finishing 18th. “I thought if I was on the outside, I would have the most room for them to go underneath me if anything happened and I couldn’t get going.
“With (Jones) hitting me, I couldn’t get going. It was just making me spin the tires worse. If you could redo it, you would change the way you did it. It was not like we were out there to screw anybody over. I hate that it worked out that way. I was just following what I was told to do and that was just stay out because we were out of tires.
“It’s not like you meant to do it. I think the one thing you can say at least we were out there to run good. I only had two weeks to work with this team and come out here and do all right. We were tying to run good for our team.’’
Jones was dumbfounded about Whitt’s restart — or lack of it in Jones’ opinion.
“You can’t pass before the start/finish line,’’ Jones said. “It would have been one thing if he would got up and started rolling but you can’t go anywhere before the start/finish line. It’s really frustrating. I don’t mean to bag on the guy so much but it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re up here racing for the championship.’
“Maybe we don’t even win it if he pits and lets us move up. At least we would have had a fair shot of it. I kind of feel we got robbed of our chance to race for it.’’
Asked if he owed Jones an explanation, Whitt said: “I know he’s pissed. He’s going to go on to Cup and win championships there and be the next guy anyway. He’s set up in the long run. It’s not like I’m set up to screw him. I just couldn’t get going, spinning my tires. Simple as that. The more he hits, the more I spin my tires. Just a crappy situation.’’
Asked if he should talk to all the championship contenders, Whitt said: “Everyone feels that they were going to win this championship. Sorry it happened.’’