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Up To Speed: Make No Mistake, There Were 2 “Attempts” at a GWC in Talladega

 

 

con·sist·en·cy

kənˈsistənsē/noun

conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.

“the grading system is to be streamlined to ensure greater consistency”

synonyms:          uniformity, constancy, regularity, evenness, steadiness, stability, equilibrium

I chose the word consistency because it feels like the world of NASCAR is lacking some right now. Following the CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, fans were left scratching their heads at what exactly had just taken place. A new green-white-checkered rule was put in place, which everyone knew ahead of time, and we (unsurprisingly) were able to see that play out. Instead of the usual three attempts at a GWC, NASCAR reduced that number down to one (as it used to be a few years ago) in the name of safety, following some rather harrowing late-race wrecks at restrictor plate tracks recently. Unsurprisingly, the race ended under caution.

That wasn’t the issue.

The issue was that there were two attempts at a GWC… whether NASCAR “defined” it that way or not.

I’ve been watching racing for a long time. Perhaps not as long as some of you reading this, but long enough that I know what the rules are. I know about restarts, pit stops, points, etc., as I’m sure you do too. I can speak racing rules and regulations as if it were a second language.

So why is it then, that I had never heard of this “the drivers have to make it back to the start/finish line for it to be an ‘attempt’” prior to Sunday?

Just to catch you up, a late-race caution brought on by the expired engine of Jamie McMurray generated a GWC finish, what we knew would eventually end the race one way or the other. The mess was cleaned up, the field was reset, the pace car peeled off… and the race went green.

You can spin this any way you want it. The race. Went. Green.

The green light was on. The green flag was in the air. The drives were in the restart zone. The race restarted. Period.

However, a slow restart by the No. 22 of Joey Logano (and likely some miscues on the part of the drivers behind him) caused a stack-up and Jimmie Johnson went spinning into the infield. A few other cars suffered damage and the caution flag flew. Again, the caution flag flew after the race went back green.

So… the race was over, right? I mean, it sucked that the race was over after a whole three seconds of green-flag racing, but that was the rule, right? Logano was leading, throw the checkered, the race is over.

But… no. I (and many others by the looks of it) learned something new.

Because the drivers didn’t actually make it to the start/finish line after the race went back green, it wasn’t considered an “official” restart.

…Wait, what? When has the location of the start/finish line ever mattered on the restart? In fact, there has been a debate going on now regarding the “restart zone” and whether or not it should be eliminated completely and instead have the drivers begin to accelerate at the start/finish line. Wave the flag and go.

The way it currently works is that NASCAR dictates a restart zone (which is demonstrated to us either by television graphics or the racetracks helpfully painting the zones onto the wall and infield). The lead/control car can dictate where within the restart zone s/he wants to accelerate and start the race. If the leader/control car has not restarted the race by the time s/he reaches the end of the restart zone, the flagman starts the race and the race goes green.

Do you see anything about the start/finish line in there? The start/finish line, up until last Sunday, really had no impact on the restart as the restart zone was always several yards away.

Now, it’s possible that this is just a rule that we had never previously had to witness or encounter. I find it a little hard to believe that any time a restart has gone awry that the caution flag has always flown before the cars crossed the start/finish line but, okay, maybe it hasn’t had the impact that this race did. Maybe it wasn’t enforced.

Except that just seems a little ridiculous, right? After all, if they were going to change the GWC rule for this one race, shouldn’t the word “attempt” be a little more clearly defined going into it? I know cars wrecking on the restart is such a rare occasion at Talladega (insert sarcastic tone) but it should at least be addressed ahead of time.

Now, I know that Dale Earnhardt Jr. being involved in the incident didn’t help matters. Conspiracy theorists abounded as to why NASCAR suddenly enforced a rule that had never been previously discussed, announced or defined clearly (or it wouldn’t have been as surprising when it happened) and the resounding answer from the conspirators was that the call was made for Earnhardt. Heck, even Logano referred to the call as “Junior rules.”

Of course Logano would be the angriest about it considering he would have benefitted most, but come on… any leader (Chase or not) would have felt the same way. “It doesn’t count as an attempt unless we cross the start/finish line? Since when?”

What happened next was even worse. Since NASCAR didn’t define that as an “attempt”, they had to go again. On the ensuing second GWC “restart” (or attempt or whatever you want to call it), there was yet another wreck.

The drivers actually made it past the start/finish line this time and the caution was called for a second time.

Why was it worse? NASCAR didn’t even hesitate to throw the caution on the original GWC restart when the No. 48 went spinning through the grass. It was within seconds. That’s why the drivers didn’t make it to the start/finish line. On the second attempt, NASCAR waited several seconds before finally throwing the green, even though the second wreck involved a lot more cars and saw much heavier contact.

You probably know what happened next. After reviewing the footage, NASCAR determined that Logano was ahead of Earnhardt at the time of the caution (a call I didn’t see very widely disputed based on the video footage) and the initial GWC wave-off didn’t really impact much anyway. Oh, other than Earnhardt missing the Chase, but you know.

Look, I wasn’t a huge fan of reducing the GWC attempts in the first place. Yes, I throw a tantrum whenever a driver hits a part of the wall that isn’t fitted with SAFER barriers and any other safety mechanism isn’t put in place that should otherwise be common sense.

However, I’m of the mindset that — except under very extreme extenuating circumstances — the fans should always see a race finish under green. That’s why I want all safety measures put in place. That way, the likelihood of injuries is greatly reduced and fans can see the drivers race back to the start/finish line. I would have rather NASCAR went back to single-file restarts for a GWC restart than all but guarantee the race will end under yellow. What else did we expect to see happen at Talladega? I don’t care if it’s one attempt or five. Finish the dang race at full speed, not with the pace car leading the field to the checkers.

With that said, that wasn’t the rule in this race, whether I liked it or not. And while NASCAR would say that they didn’t backpedal on their “one attempt” rule, it sure felt that way. Earnhardt making the Chase would have been great for the sport but the rules need to be the same regardless of circumstances. Am I saying they would have made the call differently had the roles been reversed (Earnhardt first, Logano second)? I don’t know. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the call would have been the same regardless of who was out front, but I couldn’t say so with certainty.

The bottom line is that the sanctioning body is perceived by many longtime fans as making up rules as they go along. Perhaps this was a long-established rule that had never reared its head before, but if that’s the case, why didn’t anyone know about it? No, the “attempt” at a GWC was an attempt… it just wasn’t the attempt NASCAR wanted.

Heck, it’s not the attempt any of us wanted. I’ve never met a race fan that wants the race to end under caution. But change the rules to fix that after the race is over, not in the middle of competition.

Maybe the word shouldn’t be consistency. Maybe the word should be compliance. Instead, we had another word… “confusion.”

I will end this by saying that, despite the rather unpleasant ending, I enjoyed the race. I’ve said before that my ideal race is one with fantastic racing and little or no cautions. For most of the race, that’s exactly what we were able to see. It was a rather… pleasant surprise.

Another sidebar. I’m not intentionally picking on Logano every time he wins. He just happens to keep winning in ways I don’t like. I’m not sure this one was really his fault but he ultimately pulled through nonetheless.

Finally, honorable mention to Kevin Harvick, who was accused by fans and competitors alike of intentionally causing that final caution in order to save his own Chase chances. The replay certainly looked questionable at best and Harvick had surprisingly little to say once the race was over. I certainly hope that he didn’t pull something like that to win the race but it’s hard to argue that point considering the circumstances.

Phew… and we still have four races left!

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29 thoughts on “Up To Speed: Make No Mistake, There Were 2 “Attempts” at a GWC in Talladega”

  1. I hate when races finish the way they did at Talladega. It always sucks no matter where, when one finishes under caution.

    Now we will see if Logano has peaked. Will be awfully tough to win 4 in a row. That is something very rare in Nascar.

    So? of the 8 remaining, 3 races to go. Whose everyone’s pick to be the final four??

    • I’d like it to be Gordon, Keseloski, Logano, and Truex. It will probably be Kyle Busch, Edwards, Harvick, and Logano.

  2. You pretty much said it all but I will add that the TV guys (Jarrett especially) made me nauseous with their attempt to logically explain what happened without pissing off France. Those that also watched the great F1 race in Austin saw the contrast between Real Racing excitement and Reality Racing excitement. Knowing what we KNOW about NASCAR why am I continually disappointed. Reminds me of a famous quote by President Bush: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

    • I watched the F1 race and really liked it- I was suprised! Some call that series a circus, but when you have seen what NASCAR has become it seemed like purer racing to me! And a champion crowned by season long points- who does that?!

      Hey look F1 is on NBC proper again this sunday as one of the best tracks in Martinsville will be mitigated to NBCSN hell. I think I’ll watch F1 again.

  3. Hello Summer, I’m Richie. Now that we’ve met. I’d rather see races finish under caution than this contrived GWC garbage. NASCAR should make every attempt to quickly and thoroughly get the track back to race-ready and restart the race before the laps run out. If they are unable to do so, then the order should be frozen where the caution came out and once the advertised number of laps have been completed (under green or yellow), the checkered flag should be thrown. Too many teams have been “punished” after working hard all day to build a legitimate lead only to have it ruined by the tomfoolery of the GWC.

  4. I am 100% in agreement with Richie. The GWC finish is an abomination that usually takes a good finish away from someone that ran well all day and deserves a good finish and then arbitrarily rewards someone with a good finish that didn’t deserve it based on how well they ran in the rest of the race. I have never liked the GWC nor have I thought it was fair to the competitors.

    Wow, Summer actually calls BS on NASCAR for a change. I didn’t see that one coming. Welcome to the club!!!!

  5. the spin doctors were working overtime yesterday at dega.

    what a mess…..i guess that was a one and one-half attempt at a gwc.

  6. The fans have paid for a 500 mile race. It should be over at 500 miles. At Talladega the race actually ends about 420 feet before the finish line on the last lap. There shouldn’t be overtime.

    • agree! I have NEVER liked the GWC rule, no matter what. I think that it has led to a lot of intentional wrecks and quite often penalizes the driver on the restart.

      I disagree with Summer’s contention that all races should end under green. They should end at their stated length or if there is a weather issue, when the race reaches halfway. Those rules work for the most part. NASCAR does indeed spend a lot of time making up the rules as they go and most of the “new” rules haven’t resulted in good things happening but have led mostly to chaos and crashes.

  7. no no no we all got it wrong.
    helton said it, so it must be true…
    (at least for anyone who earns their living benefiting from nascar)

    it was only and attempt at an attempt.

  8. Whether you do or don’t like the GWC rule, let’s go back to Summer’s first point…. consistency. There’s not a single Nascar official who understands the concept of it. That’s the real point.

    • So now the rules do not change randomly week to week now they change lap to lap. So glad that I didn’t watch a minute of it.

  9. It’s called a start/finish line for a reason. The race officially starts at the line and likewise, ends at the line. Of course the green is displayed before the line or it would be very difficult for the leader to see it as they go under the flagman…positioned above the start/finish line. Same when the checkered is displayed…the leader when the checkered does not win the race simply because the flag was shown, the winner is the first one back to the flag at the start/finish line. Not arguing that NASCAR has a longtime problem with consistency, but they were correct that the lap had not officially began under a green flag.

    • That’s right. The start/finish line is where the lap starts to be counted and where the counting ends. Not when the flag is in the air.

    • Finally someone has pegged it. Until they cross the start/finish line the green flag lap has not been scored, as they are still completing a yellow flag lap. Hence the non gwc attempt the first time.

  10. Oh, wow! A controversial finish? Gee, that’s so rare in NA$CAR! Like many of you (most of you?) I have gotten sick and tired of the way Brain Farce has ruined this sport, and it somehow just keeps getting worse! (Go figure). This year I have finally had enough. I have just plain lost interest in a sport that consistently rewards a bunch of also-rans with race wins because they are good at being overly agressive for 10 laps (usually less) after a mystery debris caution in spite of being only top-15 for the first 95% of the race. After attending the Fall Richmond race (a chance to visit my cousin, and the tickets were already paid for), I decided to not even bother watching on TV any more. So I was not too surprised to hear this same scenario unfolded at Chicagoland. Surprise Surprise. Haven’t watched any more either. Even lost interest in hearing who won, because there is no longer even a shadow of legitimacy left to the crowning of a “series champion”. When you have such a bastardized abortion of a “championship playoff system”, how can you blame Harvick for doing what he did? You simply do what you have to do in order to advance to the next farce. I didn’t blame Newman for moving Larson out of the way last year for the same reason. My only disappointment was that Newman didn’t become “champion” without a win last year, which would have proven just how ridiculously stupid this whole “chase” has been from the beginning. Thanx, Brain Farce, for making me yet one more ex-fan!

  11. I agree it was “two attempts” but I was happy they tried again. To me it was like throwing the lights back on the pace car just as it’s about to turn to pit road. The whole ending was BS though, and the race was really exciting up to that point. They reduced the GWC finishes to appease the owners/drivers who didn’t want more chances to tear up 6-figure race cars, not so much for safety.

  12. Before the year is out, Harvick will pay for wrecking Trevor so he would advance in the chase. Had Trevor been the one that wrecked Harvick , Nascar would have came down hard on Trevor. Pay back will come,but not from Trevor.

  13. NASCAR does even understand the mess they have made – let alone deal with it. Not just the restart fiasco, but could Harvick even make 60 mph? How is he allowed to be out there?

    I’m a Logano fan, but why is allowed to back up every restart?

    All you 88 haters can say what you want, but no other driver would have reacted with the class he showed.

    Thank you.

    • Min speed black flags are based on just that. #4 was up to speed prior to the #1 debris caution. Nascar does not black flag cars because of talk. They black flag based on failure to keep up minimum speed. #4 prevented that from happening. Clear race manipulation imo.

  14. First of all, facts check: 1.) The checkered comes out only after the white. As it were, & as Marcos Ambrose will attest, they had to complete TWO caution laps before the checkers fly. 2.) The flag “man” in question is a woman. Correct nomenclatures is Flagger, Starter or Marshall. Sorta like “Drivers (not gentlemen) start your engines.”
    The null attempt seemed ridiculous at first glance, but after it was explained & replayed I have no problem with it. Rather than believe Nascar is making things up for fun (& Lil E Nation), I tend to believe it & has always been a rule that has been rarely needed since the current restart (box) rules have been function so well. If so, the whinging is seemingly moot & it is drivers, teams & fans own fault for being ignorant of the rules. Regardless, you [Mrs Bedgood] even admit you don’t know if there is a rule governing your commentary. So it definitely is responsible {of the author & all the armchair keyboard warriors) to chastise Nascar in media without knowing what you are talking about., smh…
    Even I questioned it at first, thinking it would be another Ford hose job by [pro-CHevy, Lil E Nation] Nascar. But after review, I applaud the call & attempt to appease the fans that wanted the green racing finish, & do not understand the criticism. The second [first] attempt was clearly VERY different from the first, in that the leaders were clearly across the S/F line, which was clearly not the case on the pseudo attempt. A one or two second delay in flying the yellow is commonplace & hardly conspiracy worthy!
    The ruined finish is 100% on the #4 …NOT NASCAR! Its not like the #4 dint see the #6. On the #4 over-the-shoulder HD video camera, #4 can bee seen looking over at the #6 & clearly shown to be lining up #6 for the intentional hook job. He is looking out his right window at #6’s door handle for Christ’s sakes. 100% totally implausible that he did not see/hear that 3500 lb raging #6 rhino 6 inches from his car! And it’s all on the in-car cam footage. Imo the evidence is conclusive enough to warrant a severe “race manipulation – P3 or P4” penalty.

  15. Don’t have a lot of issues with this at all…Cars did not take the green..Harv did what he had to & only he knows his intentions..Joey was in front(that was the shocker as I would have thought Nascar would wait till he was in front) so congrats(for a change) to Nascar -no fix here…Jr showed a ton of class after..Think Summer is just trying to get hits to her blog & it worked..At a plate race the 1 attempt makes sense as their just costing every one a pile O’ dough …Best to all

  16. Definitely not a Havick fan but how is it any different what he did as apposed to what Newman did last year to Larson to move on. Only difference I see is there was more carnage this time and Earnhardt just happened to be a victim by being eliminated by Havick’s decision. If Harvick is penalized, Newman should have been last year.

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