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.
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