DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona on Friday night marked the final time that the NASCAR Nationwide Series will compete on a restrictor plate track this season, providing the league time to reassess the new rule that prohibits drivers from pushing or forming tandems.
The new policy generated controversy right from the start of the season when NASCAR penalized a race-contending James Buescher at Daytona in February for what appeared to be a judgment call at best.
It seems like the Sanctioning Body has created a rule that is near impossible to officiate with consistency, a fact that was made totally clear on Friday night.
Josh Wise and Landon Cassill were issued pass-through penalties early in the race while other pairings including Kyle Busch/Elliott Sadler and Trevor Bayne/Kyle Busch were left untouched despite similar actions.
Even the finish of Friday’s race came down to a push with Ryan Sieg shoving Kasey Kahne all the way down Turn 4, across the frontstretch and past Regan Smith for the win.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton met with the media on Friday night, explaining that cars moving side-to-side while bump drafting indicated no linkage, which explained the decision not to penalize either Kahne or Sieg.
“When you look at any of these situations when (drivers) make contact and bump on that last lap — a car will close in on another car and the accordion will close up, making tight quarters all the way through the rows,” Pemberton said. “The cars are moving side-to-side which tells you that they are not directly connected.”
But Pemberton is aware of the derision that some of the calls and no calls from race control has generated this season and assured everyone that NASCAR will continue to address and analyze its rules package for everyone involved.
“We’ll look at this situation,” Pemberton said. “It’s the last plate race for the Nationwide Series this season and these are the rules we put in place at the beginning of the year. We’ve worked with the teams under their suggestions and said that we would look at it by the end of the year and see what adjustments we need to make.”
All three Nationwide plate races have come down to pushing on the final lap leaving some to believe that NASCAR is hesitant to issue a penalty when a victory is on the line, especially given the judgement call nature of the infraction. Pemberton responded by saying that decisions on the last lap are no different than any other part of the race.
“Well it’s not exactly just the final lap,” Pemberton said. “The perspective you get from a 2.5-mile race track — you rely heavily on cameras but they don’t have the same angle all the time. You think you see something that isn’t there and you have to search hard to find it.So of someone has to look that hard for it, then maybe it isn’t that worthy of a call. But it’s not just the last lap.”