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How exactly did Gordon avoid being lapped?

By admin | May 9, 2010

By Richard Allen

When the leader of a race passes another car that car is lapped, right? Well, apparently not. At least that was the case, or not the case, during Saturday night’s SHOWTIME Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway.

With less than 50 laps to go, teams began to cycle through a round of green flag pit stops. During that sequence of events Jeff Gordon slowed his #24 Chevrolet to make an appearance on the pit lane. However, he missed the commitment cone and had to make another trip around the oddly shaped track.

On his next pass, Gordon did indeed make the entrance onto pit road. This time, trouble struck again. The caution waved for a Joey Logano spin just before Gordon reached his pit stall. Leaders Jeff Burton and Denny Hamlin, who had yet to pit, zoomed by Gordon as he observed the speed limit on pit road.

So, Gordon was lapped, right? Well, no.

NASCAR explained that because Gordon was ahead of the leaders when they came to the start/finish line at the time of caution, he was to be counted as still on the lead lap. Gordon was indeed ahead of the leaders at the time the yellow flag was displayed and he did indeed beat them to the start/finish line.

With all that said, don’t cars on pit road still have to observe the pit road speed limit? Of course, the answer to that is yes. Since cars on the track can not immediately slow to caution speed any cars on pit road get passed by.

I understand that cars running on the track are frozen in position at the time of caution, but can that be applied to cars in the pits? It seems as though a car on pit road at the time of caution is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. In other words, it’s just a racin’ deal.

The key to answering these questions is consistency. I can’t immediately recall a similar situation. But if there has been one or if there is one in the future, NASCAR must issue the same ruling.

I am not looking to start some Hendrick/Gordon conspiracy theory discussion. And, I am certainly no Gordon hater but not really a Gordon fan either.

I picked Jeff Gordon to win so a victory by him could have actually made me look as if I know what I’m talking about(nah!). I just think it’s odd that a car was lapped and had the lap given back even though he was on pit road at the time of caution.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

13 Responses to “How exactly did Gordon avoid being lapped?”

  1. Bill B Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 8:59 am

    I thought they showed the leaders coming to the start/finish line and Gordon ahead of them. Even if they froze the field immediately (making the start/finish line immaterial) Gordon would have been ahead of them.

    Did I miss something or am I missing the point?

  2. Damon Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 9:10 am

    When Jeff missed the Pits he went from 1 sec behind the leaders to 12 secs behind. When he pitted on the next lap the caution flew just after he entered pit road. The leaders then SLOWED on the track at which point Jeff - going pit road speed - was able to pass the start finish line before the leaders. At this point the field was frozen so it didn’t matter that the pace car passed Jeff while he was coming off pit road - and therefore he was waved around. If Hamlin and Burton had conintued at 170mph then they would have passed Jeff before he reached the start finish line - but since they slowed when the caution came out that did not happen.

  3. Ginger Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 9:59 am

    There just ain’t no way! This should forever be called the Jeff Gordon rule, and other drivers should take advantage of it whenever possible.

  4. Charles Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I went to the race and thought the same thing. Unless I missed something, he should have been a lap down, when I looked at the scoreboard and he was making the charge I thought he was trying to get his lap back!

    Then they showed him in the top ten, he got up to 4th!
    Glad I was not the only one to think this! I have been to many of race and see someone have a wreck or get lapped mabe 4 time etc and at the end of a race they will all of sudden get their laps back without passing the leader and this was before the ‘lucky dog rule”!

    A lot of times a point title is decided by 10 to 25 points, and cases like this can make the difference!

  5. DMan Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    “This should forever be called the Jeff Gordon rule”

    LMBO…Just like the “Jimmie Johnson Rule” at California…

  6. Richard Allen Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    If a car is on pit road for extended repairs under caution and by the time the car leaves the pace car is very close, that car gets lapped if it maintains pit road speed. It doesn’t matter whether or not it crossed the line ahead of the pace car.

  7. Paul brown Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I was watching from the grassy knol and think there was two laps given to him and one to Jimmie

  8. Eric Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    If i recall Burton was leading at another race this year and the exact same thing happened. Can’t remember the driver but that time nascar said he didnt go a lap down because they beat Burton to the pit exit line. Is it start/finish or pit exit? Thats what I thinking saturday night.

  9. Terry Says:
    May 11th, 2010 at 1:11 am

    If you come down pit road and do not stop in your pit the race is to the start/finish line. If you do stop in your pit the race is to the end of pit road. Since the 24 didn’t stop in his pit all he had to do it beat the leader to the start/finish line. In California the 48 had stopped in his pit, so he had to beat the leader to the end of pit road. Two different situations, two different rules.

  10. Ryan Says:
    May 11th, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Logic tells me that regardless whether a car stops in their pit box or not that the cars on pit road get scored at the exit of pit road (like Jimmie Johnson this year @ Cali) instead of at the s/f line. If this same scenario were to have played out at Talladega, where the start finish line isn’t in the middle of pit road, how would this scoring work there? I just feel like this ruling was obscure and doesn’t fit with what would be a typical ruling.

  11. Terry Says:
    May 12th, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Ryan, stop seeing black helicopters. I can’t stand JG and would have loved to see him go a lap or more down. It doesn’t matter what the logic tells you, those are the rules. This wasn’t something NASCAR did just because it was JG. If that were the case don’t you think the other teams would be rasing hell?

  12. Ryan Says:
    May 12th, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Terry, just trying to figure out why two different rules for for the same action (going down pit road) with the only difference being whether you stopped in your box or not. I listened in on Jeff Burton’s radio after that and he questioned his crew for several minutes asking why Gordon wasn’t a lap down. He didn’t buy into the s/f line deal either but gave up on it when he was pitting. He didn’t exactly raise hell about it, but he really felt Gordon should have been a lap down. Once they go back racing its like a foul not seen in another sport, you just suck it up and play on.

  13. Terry Says:
    May 13th, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Ryan, the way I remember it being explained was something like this. Years ago it was always the S/F line. Then teams figured out that if you passed the S/F and the field was frozen and you were pitted passed the S/F line you could pit and not go a lap down. So you had an advantage over cars pitted before the S/F line. So NASCAR figured out if you pitted they changed it to the end of pit road. Now the question is why didn’t they do the same even if you drove thru. For that I don’t have an answer. I just know that is the rule. Believe me, I think Hendrick teams get calls that go their way all the time. But this time the rules were followed to the letter.