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InTheTracks.com Feature Commentary:
What went wrong at Talladega?
October 25, 2015

There were a couple things that went wrong or at least NASCAR should learn from for the future. First, I applaud them for thinking safety first and making the call the Tuesday before the race to limit the number of green-white-checkered restarts to one. However, they should have stuck to it. Second, watch the race and react properly as the sanctioning body to keep safety the number one priority. Let's take a more detailed look at these things.

As we saw, restarts at Talladega are tricky. There are teams trying to outsmart others and others trying to anticipate when those at the front are going to go. This is because it takes a lot to get back up to speed at the superspeedways. This causes wrecks and compromises safety, which is why making the call the Tuesday before the race to have only the one green-white-checkered restart was a good idea.

Where NASCAR went wrong was with the decision, probably fearful that the fans would complain that they never really restarted, to jump when Jimmie Johnson spun to the inside and threw the caution back out before the leader passed the flag stand. I have seen NASCAR waive off the restart before, but never after the leader has restarted the race by completely traveling through the restart zone. The rule as I understand is that the restart is in the control of the leader unless the leader does not go within the restart zone.

Logano went, albeit not that well as Gordon gave him a push after Logano spun his tires, within the restart zone and restarted the race. The fact that they wrecked behind the leaders before they passed the start/finish line should not have been a factor. Why? Well, why did they decide to do only one green-white-checkered finish? Instead of just the one wreck we had a second and the second was bigger and more of a safety issue.

So, they decided to go with giving the fans a chance to see a finish by thinking quickly and throwing the caution. The call was that the first attempt was not an attempt, but that did not mean they could not learn from it.

Word from Harvick was that his car was having engine troubles and was maxed out under the caution. However, he was not going to pit and give up his championship hopes. That does not mean that NASCAR should not have reacted to the safety issue that Harvick created.

What could NASCAR have done? During the first failed attempt, Harvick pulled out of his lane to allow cars behind him to pass well before the restart zone(see location 1 in diagram above). NASCAR has a rule about changing lanes during a restart before crossing the start/finish line. NASCAR should have sent Harvick to the back for the restart violation as he had pulled out of line before they reached the restart zone.

This would have been a controversial call since it would have removed Harvick from the Chase. However, note that had Harvick not wrecked with Bayne on the official attempted restart in which he did not pull to the right until after the restart zone and after forcing Bayne to go to his outside to avoid his slow car, they might have completed the two final laps and made the decision to call off the first attempt a popular move by NASCAR.

Overall, NASCAR started the week thinking safety and finished it tossing safety into the wind.

 
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