May. 23, 2016
Sliced Bread Wins The Million - Others "Confused About The Officiating"
The NASCAR All star race weekend started late, ended late, was rained out at times, and no one knew what anyone else was doihg when it came to the new format this year.
The race started with a simple rule change - drivers must pit before lap 85 in segment one in order not to be penalized. Too bad no one told that to Matt Kenseth. With 5 laps to go in the first of 3 segments, Jamie McMurray spun in Turn 2 but received no damage. Everyone else pitted on the strategy of 25-35 laps in, but Matt's crew chief and the 20 car couldn't get their plans straight in time, and NASCAR told Kenseth he had to come in and serve a pass through penalty. Was Matt waiting till the absolute last moment to pit, or did he just not get there in time?
During Segment 2, you had to pit before lap 85. If there was a caution, then regular rules applied when it came to the lucky dog and the wave arounds. At least that what people thought. Kyle Larson got loose in Turn 2 due to a weeper - a section of standing water from underneath the safer barrier), but did an incredible job saving it. Under this caution Kevin Harvick came in with power steering fluid problems, and it took a couple of stops to get him back on the track and in good shape again.
Chase Elliott had trouble slowing down on the restart and got the field stacked behind him, including sending Matt Kenseth into the wall and back down the track into the 14 of Tony Stewart, who was none too pleased with being taken out early after the incident when he hit the wall and then got clobbered by the 5 of Kasey Khane
"I'm as baffled as everybody. I don't know how in the hell we were scored a lap down after they stopped the 20 car (of Matt Kenseth earlier for a penalty) and they pit everybody together. ... It's the most screwed-up All-Star Race I've ever been a part of, and I'm glad this is the last one,"
Carl Edwards had trouble getting to the pits to first time so he had to make another pass at it, and the 75 of Kyle Busch was nabbed for being too fast entering pit road.
The end of Segment 3 was the most confusing of all when NASCAR decided that how the drivers would come in - and go out of the pits - would be decided by a luck of the draw. It would be either 9, 10 or 11 drivers that would have to pit, moving the rest of the field to the front. Larson, Keselowski, Dale Jr, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick were the first 5 that had to pit, along with Bayne, Edwards, Harvick, Hamlin and Elliott. All teams had to stop for a mandatory 4 tire change.
After the teams pitted, NASCAR officials were on track lining up all cars that pitted like a bunch school children checking their pockets for anything illegal they could sneak into class. And wouldn't you know, Carl Edwards was called down to pit road because he had 1 lug nut that was not all the way against the wheel. Ridiculous, over-protective and silly if you ask me. The official let him get back on the track once he had all 5 lugs tight. The 48 of Johnson and the 42 of Kyle Larson were called out on another team's radio for staying back too much to set themselves up for good starting spots when the inverted switcheroo of the first 11 cars took place. That set the 48 and the 48 up near the front row for the restart.
But when the drivers that pitted for 4 fresh tires came hard on the last 13 laps (a number decided by the drivers), guys with 2 tires like Johnson got eaten up in the pack and out came Logano, who fought Kyle Larson tooth and nail until Larson got loose and hit the wall, giving Logano motive, means and opportunity to commit the perfect crime - steal the million dollars away from the other 19 drivers. Only green flag laps counted.
Next week is the longest race of the year. The Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte. And this one is for points, so it's back to the teams using pit strategy, tire management, and several teams licking their wounds and fi their cars after a couple of weeks of wrecks and unexpected decisions, or lack thereof, between crew chiefs and drivers. Time for the drivers to bring their A game and make sure that communication is king. No room for errors. No time for bad stops or bad calls. And the officiating needs to return to some normalcy. No making up new rules as you go along