Examining NASCAR’s blunder following Talladega fallout

At what point does a restart take place?

This is the question running through my mind as I attempted to digest what has taken place at Talladega Superspeedway at the end of NASCAR’s Camping World 500.

A caution came out for Jamie McMurray blowing an engine and the field was lined up for a green/white/checkered finish. The difference was that NASCAR had stated heading into the week leading up to Talladega that there would only be one attempt while other races had three, due to the nature of restrictor-plate racing.

This was done as a reaction to Austin Dillon’s incident at Daytona this year in the Coke Zero 400 that saw the Richard Childress Racing driver involved in a violent crash following multiple attempts at a GWC finish.

This recent weekend at Talladega the field was coming down to get the green flag, Jimmie Johnson spun, but despite the track’s green lights coming on, NASCAR declared that because the leaders hadn’t reached the start finish line, that the restart didn’t count.

Come again?

At what point does a restart take place?

That moment is not defined in the NASCAR rulebook.

Looking at the replay, it’s clear to see that the green lights around the track were lit. How was the track not in a green flag condition?

It appears to me that NASCAR was making this up as it happened.

So the field gets lined up for “attempt” number two, and wouldn’t you know it, after running so many laps caution free, the big one takes place at under 120 miles per hour, triggered by Kevin Harvick hitting Trevor Bayne.

But why did Harvick hit Bayne?

Harvick claimed that he was trying to get out of the way of the field behind him. But if he wanted to get out of the way of his competitors, why not stay in a straight line, allowing everyone to go around him on the outside?

Everybody behind Harvick knew that his engine was sick, which is why Bayne went to Harvick’s outside.

Some drivers, Denny Hamlin included, believe that Harvick took Bayne out on purpose in order to secure himself a position in the chase, and should be penalized for it similar to how Clint Bowyer spun to set up a caution at Richmond a few seasons ago.

Some have said that it wouldn’t be consistent to penalize Harvick given what Ryan Newman did to Kyle Larson at Phoenix last year.

I disagree.

Harvick attempted to race with an engine that was quite sick and knew his car wouldn’t last long. Newman was in a healthy car at Phoenix when he made his move.

Either way, whatever happens, this puts a black eye on NASCAR for seemingly making procedures up as they go along, and putting a championship format in place where drivers have to resort to measures such as Harvick’s in order to advance.

The best thing that could help the sport is becoming more transparent, at least then we could understand NASCAR’s reasons and decisions in such difficult situations.

Image: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.

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