Breaking Down Edwards’ Controversy at Richmond

Bob Osborne, crew chief for Carl Edwards
discusses the Black Flag penalty with an Official
Photo – Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Fans craving more drama on the track, were given some controversy over Carl Edwards Black Flag penalty issued by NASCAR at Richmond.  In reading comments after the race, it appears the confusion and controversy continues depending on which side of the fence you stand. 

In post race comments, Carl Edwards said, “I am trying to not be too frustrated and say something stupid. So right before that start my spotter Jason Hedlesky was told by NASCAR officials that the 99 was the leader. Jason told me and I had a split second to decide what I was going to do. I thought, okay, NASCAR made a mistake and they lined us up wrong. I was at a disadvantage being on the outside, so I thought I was getting the best start I could get. It looked like Tony waited or spun his tires so they black flagged me. I still don’t understand why they black flagged me. They said we were the leader and I restarted the best I could given the disadvantage position I was in. The problem is I don’t know if NASCAR is going to take the stance that I jumped the start. If they are saying that I jumped the start then that would be real frustrating.”

While Edwards frustration is somewhat understandable, after all there seems to have been a lot of radio discussion between Edwards, his spotter and an official claiming he was leading the race on the restart. However, when the situation is broken down, it becomes apparent, there should have been no confusion about who was leading at this point of the race, even though there is a time when the scoring pylon also indicates Edwards in the lead position. 

Let’s clarify what happened by breaking this down. On Lap 310, Tony Stewart was on pit road while Carl Edwards misses pit road and Jeff Burton slams the wall in Turn 4.  

Lap 311, the caution flag waves with Jimmie Johnson pitting as the caution comes out for debris from Jeff Burton hitting the wall.  Although Johnson is in a position to be leading the race, a bad pit stop gets worse when a tire violation puts the No. 48 at the rear of the field for the restart. 

What happens next – while easily overlooked – is where the point that Carl Edwards is not the race leader becomes crystal clear.

Carl Edwards makes a pit stop at Richmond
Photo – Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Lap 314, Carl Edwards hits pit road as the only lead lap driver to not pit under green.  At this moment, Carl Edwards is no longer leading the race – period.  

Although Edwards is no longer leading the race due to the pit stop, there is a point when scoring pylon shows the race order with Edwards first and Stewart in second. 

Actually, Stewart is first and Edwards is second, but at one lap to go, Edwards was weaving back and forth – a common practice to scrub the tires and maintain heat for more grip on the restart – he moves momentarily ahead of Stewart at the start/finish line and it changes the lineup on the scoring pylon showing Edwards as the leader until they once again cross the line. 

“What you’ve got to understand is the electronics,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. “When the transponder crosses the start/finish line – when Carl was scrubbing his tires, he beat the 14 to the line – so that instantaneously puts him up top.

“It happens all the time, but these circumstances don’t stack on top of it. That put him up on top of the board just because he was coming to the line with one to go.”

So, with the confusion that follows, Edwards is frustrated and at the same time anxious to be in position to win the race, because if there is a mistake and he’s actually first, he would have preferred the inside line for the restart. But with less than a lap to go now, there’s no time to make that change. 

“We’re coming to the restart and there’s a lot of finger pointing up there, and everybody has to look at the scoreboard,” Pemberton said. “But you really have to look at the fact of coming to one to go, they knew the 14 was the leader and the 99 was second (based on the pit stop). It’s as clear as that.”

Apparently NASCAR found no evidence to support Hedlesky’s claim that an official confirmed to him Edwards was the leader.  Hedlesky remains firm about what he says happened. Despite what was on the pylon, NASCAR also says, the team should have known Stewart was the leader. Still, Edwards next decisions are based on inaccurate information from his spotter. 

The situation gets compounded on Lap 318 when the Green Flag waves and while Stewart spins his tires, Carl Edwards jumps to the front, but does so in violation of the rules for a restart.

By Dustin Long for USA Today

Via a post from Dustin Long on Google+ here are the NASCAR rules pertaining to restarts in Section 10-2A and 10-2B from the 2012 Sprint Cup Rule Book:

10-2A – The green flag signifies the start or restart of racing conditions. At the beginning of the Race/restarts, when the green flag is displayed by the starters, cars must maintain position as designated by NASCAR officials until they have crossed the start/finish line, and the No. 2 position must not beat the No. 1 position to the start/finish line. NASCAR Officials may make a special ruling on restarts for any Race (for example, following a red flag, the yellow flag may constitute an official restart of the Race).

10-2B – All restarts shall be made at a designated zone on the race track and will be made known to the drivers in the Pre-Race driver’s meeting.

On the video at the counter point of 2:34 the restart box is shown and although it’s close, it does appear that Edwards jumped ahead of Stewart prior to the restart box. Again in slow motion at 3:50 it becomes more clearly shown that Edwards is ahead of Stewart before the restart box and he definitely was ahead of Stewart before the start/finish line.

Perception is always a tricky proposition and it’s understood fans are on both sides of this perception fence. What is provided here, is an attempt to present what happened in Richmond from an objective point of view. 

Being objective, it appears NASCAR made the right call in giving the black flag to Edwards based on the fact, and video support that he did jump the restart. And regardless of what the scoring pylon indicated or “if” the official told the spotter anything, it’s also a fact that Edwards made the yellow-flag pit stop and when doing so, he no longer held the lead spot. 

That said, there’s also an appreciation that in the heat of the moment, a lot can happen, especially with confusion added and little time to evaluate the circumstances.  No matter what side of the fence you stand, all fans know what every driver seeks when running at the front of any given race is an opportunity to take the lead. 

Monday morning Robin Pemberton was on Sirius/XM NASCAR radio discussing this topic.  Fans can read the transcript at CBS Sports  and/or Listen to the Audio of Robin Pemberton

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