By Summer Bedgood – Richmond was nearly three weeks ago, yet it still continues to dominate the headlines with 5-Hour ENERGY and NAPA now acting as the stars of the show. Point changes, rules rewritten, opinions, departures … it’s all too much.
And amazingly enough, it took the focus off one driver who was just as angry as everyone else. Though no race manipulation or accusations played out during the Sept. 6 Nationwide Series race, there was one call that, by NASCAR’s own admission, was butchered.
Brian Scott had led almost the entire race, an amount that would eventually even out to 239 of 250 laps. It was a pretty impressive run for a driver who normally flies well under the radar, despite the fact that he has competed full-time in NASCAR in some capacity since 2008. To say his incredibly dominant performance came as a surprise to most people would be an understatement.
Except maybe, to Scott. According to Scott, the weekend looked promising right from the get go.
“We just unloaded off the trailer and our balance was really close,” he said recently. “Our car handled and drove the way I wanted. So throughout practice, we were able to make really fine tweaks, almost like race adjustments to figure out how our car was going to respond with a little bit of this or a little bit of that, that are easy things to do during the race. And we started the race with our balance well, with the track changing and our car handling going away on the long runs, we felt like we knew exactly what we needed to do to keep up with the racetrack and keep our car dialed in.”
Still though, as Scott took the green flag for the race no one thought that he’d be able to hold off the likes of Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, who are indomitable anytime they so much as show up at NNS race.
Where the controversy kicks in is on the last restart, where Keselowski appeared to jump ahead while lined up alongside Scott. Scott, since he was the leader, was supposed to control the restart but Keselowski got the obvious advantage on him.
Unable to get back around Keselowski in the remaining 11 laps of the race, Keselowski cruised to victory with Scott in second. Obviously none too pleased, Scott expressed his aggravation with NASCAR after the race with a controversy that seems to constantly rear its ugly head across all three series.
Scott has since changed his tone about the incident though, following a conversation with NASCAR about what happened. Perhaps because NASCAR admitted that they were wrong.
“The way it was represented to me was that it was referred to as a ball and strike call like they make in baseball,” Scott said, recalling the conversation. “And they called it a ball and after they had ample to review all the video and everything, the race was over, they agreed with our assessment on they got the call wrong.”
So why not give the win to Scott and penalize Keselowski? After all, if NASCAR says he jumped the restart, maybe he shouldn’t benefit from that jump by going to Victory Lane.
“I don’t feel like that’s the right course of action,” said Scott. “Once the checkered flag falls, I feel like the fans deserve to leave the racetrack knowing who won the race. I feel like they do review their procedures, especially with calls on exactly how they are going to enforce them and when they’re gonna make decisions. There’s a lot of times that there’s restarts with a lot less than 10 laps to go, which I think is what ours was, and they felt like they couldn’t review it and make the right decision within 10 laps. So in the future of restarts towards the end of the race, I hope that they can figure out a way to make sure they get the calls right.”
Though they would again falter on a call the following evening, NASCAR would later change the rule to say the leader no longer has to make it to the line first. If the second place driver beats the first place driver to the line, then so be it.
However for Scott, that wasn’t the issue and the solution isn’t necessarily meaningful unless something changes.
“It doesn’t matter what they put in the rulebook,” he said. “If it’s not enforced or it’s enforced in different ways than it’s wrote or it’s intended, that’s all that really matters. It doesn’t really matter how it’s wrote. It just matters which rules are enforced and which ones aren’t.”
In this case, it doesn’t appear that NASCAR enforced them correctly, though Scott has said that he feels like he has a better understanding of what NASCAR is looking for on the restarts.
“When people watch the race and when they know what’s going on, they see how NASCAR reacts or doesn’t react, I think it gives everybody a better clarity with the rules and enforcement of them,” he said.
It’s hard to imagine, though, that Scott and his race team don’t look back at Richmond and feel some frustration. Not only were they close to winning their first race of the season, and Scott’s first career NNS win, but he was close to having a perfect race by leading every lap.
But if NASCAR admits that they made the wrong call, would he do anything differently?
“If I were to go back and do it again, naturally I would try to do something different,” Scott said. “I would try to have the final two restarts go more in my favor. And who knows? NASCAR did say they got the call wrong. I would hope in that same situation, if it was us again that they would get it right the next time.”
Since that race, the series has raced at Chicago and Kentucky, where he finished 19th and fourth, respectively. Though Scott admitted that Chicago was surprisingly unproductive following such a dominant weekend, he has his eye on the prize for the rest of the year.
“I feel like this race team right now, especially with how we’re meshing and how we’re communicating, if you throw Chicago out of it, there’s been a lot of good weekends, and this race team, I think, really showed its strength and its potential at Richmond,” he said. “And I feel like any of the races that we have, starting with Kentucky all the way to the end of the year, we’re capable of doing that same type of thing if we can just hit on everything just right.”
As far as Richmond, the team has since moved on. Of course, every driver after a tough race says they’ve moved on and are focused on the future, but Scott doesn’t deny that Richmond is still a race this team thinks about.
“When I say we’re moving on, I’m not saying we’re forgetting Richmond,” he said emphatically. “I’m saying that we’re choosing to not hold our heads down or to continue to fly the flag of ‘we got screwed up on a call’ or things got messed up and it’s everybody else’s fault but ours and all of that. I’m saying we’re moving on. We’re focusing on how to be more dominant week in and week out, and have those Richmond type races and focus on getting that hardware from the next week and the next week and the next week.”
This weekend, the NNS heads to Dover International Speedway where Scott has one top five, three top 10s, and an average finish of 12th over the course of seven starts. If no one took notice of Scott before, they sure do now. If you listen to him talk, you should definitely continue to watch that team from 2013 and into next season.
“When we go into 2014, I’m sure we’re going to be a stronger, better, more competitive race team than we were in 2013,” he said.
“I feel like the top five [in points] is easily achievable,” he added. “I think that if we can really capitalize and be strong and just put together a lot of top five finishes between now and the end of the year, that even a championship run isn’t out of the question.”
Seventh in points, 79 points out of the lead sure does sound like a long road to hoe. But if Richmond is any indication, this team sure does have a lot of horsepower up their sleeve. Or, more appropriately, under the hood.
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