NASCAR penalized Brad Keselowski, driving the #2 Miller Lite Ford, for jumping the restart on Lap 242 during Sunday’s running of the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Keselowski lined up alongside the then leader Greg Biffle but the #2 Team Penske Ford appeared to accelerate a bit too early, prompting NASCAR to review the restart and subsequently threw the black flag for the #2 Ford.
“I got the chance to do something again for the first time—first person to be penalized for jumping a restart when I didn’t pass anyone,” said Keselowski, when actually he never moved ahead of Biffle during the restart. “So that’s a new one. But we moved on and made the most of a good day with the Miller Lite Ford and got a solid finish that will hopefully make our Dover (next weekend’s race) a little bit easier, so that was good.”
Greg Biffle was the leader on the outside; he maintained his speed, even though the cars stacked up behind him suggesting that the #16 Kleen Performance Products Ford spun its tires on the restart. Biffle’s restart was sluggish going through the restart area, the #2 Ford of Keselowski accelerated, but since Biffle was the leader Keselowski had to serve a pass-through penalty.
After Keselowski served his penalty on Lap 248, the #2 Miller Lite Ford returned to the track in 25th as the final lead lap car. In the 52 remaining laps of the race, Keselowski was able to work his way up to a 12th place finish. With the 12th place finish, Keselowski secures an eighth place in the points among the 16 Chase drivers.
Keselowski, who was still unhappy about NASCAR’s decision after the race, added while before going back to his motorcoach, “It’s a pretty basic understanding, it’s an entertainment sport, not a fair sport, but we had a great car.”
After drivers complained that NASCAR was being inconsistent in monitoring restarts, the sanctioning body announced last week at Chicagoland Speedway that a dedicated camera and a race official would be focused on the restart zone.
“We looked at all the data available to us, all the video, we have the senior official on the ground,” Buck, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director, told reporters after the race. “We made sure the rules are very clear to everybody, especially in the last couple drivers meetings, to be sure we had everybody informed.”
“It was very clear-cut in our mind based on the video we had, the different angles that we had. By having the individual on the ground directly across from the restart box, they can really get a good understanding and allow us to feel 100 percent that we stamped it with a very good decision.”
“There’s a double red mark on the (outside) wall and there’s a single red mark on the wall,” Buck went on to explain. “The leader is the control car and has earned the right to restart the race. He must restart the race in that zone, and the #16 (Biffle) was the leader at that point. The #2 car restarted in the zone before the #16 did… We got 100 percent confirmation from our senior official on the ground, as well as what we saw on the tapes and the data that was available to us.”
“It depends how you look at it,” Paul Wolfe said, Keselowski’s crew chief. “We did leave the zone, I guess, before the 16 (Biffle) but the 16 looks like he checked up there right at the end. So I don’t know how they’re calling it. No denying we left the zone first, and it looked like we accelerated, but it seemed like right at the same time he checked up, because they were running in the back of him. So that’s the part where it’s frustrating to call.”
NASCAR wasn’t trying to single Keselowski out, Buck insisted, and added that the second place car does not have to pass the leader to jump the restart. Although multiple restarts have been questioned by drivers in recent races, including the first race of the Chase at Chicago where Jeff Gordon appeared to have jumped the restart much more severely than Keselowski did, NASCAR didn’t penalize him.
Keselowski did not meet with NASCAR officials after the Sylvania 300, neither did any member of the Team Penske #2 team, Buck did say NASCAR will meet with them later in the week to further clarify their decision.