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« My prediction: Tony Stewart will win in Sonoma | Main | My prediction: Denny Hamlin will win in New Hampshire »

For what it’s worth, NASCAR made the right call in the Ambrose case

By admin | June 23, 2010


By Richard Allen

Let me begin this piece by saying I have been away on a family trip to San Diego for a few days but I thought it better late than never for me to offer my two cents worth on the Marcos Ambrose situation in Sonoma. I only watched the second half of the race and I have not read any other commentary in regard to the situation I am about to discuss.

It looked as if Ambrose was on his way to a win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway when he inexplicably came to a stop on the track which allowed several cars to coast by at caution speed.

Despite the fact that fuel mileage did not look to be any sort of an issue in the race, Ambrose was employing the commonly used practice of turning his engine off and coasting under caution. When he went to restart the car it would not fire, causing him to come to a complete stop for a short time.

After finally getting his car started Ambrose drove back up to the front of the pack. NASCAR stepped in at that moment and sent him back into the place where he had rejoined the field.

As one who often criticizes NASCAR for their decisions I feel it necessary to point out when they make a correct call as well. In this case they did just that. Ambrose should not have been in the lead. He stopped on the track of his own accord. He was not told to stop by an official. He was not forced to stop by a competitor. There were no safety concerns that would have given him reason to stop. He was doing something unnecessary which caused his car to fail.

For those who say NASCAR conspires to help teams such as Hendrick Motorsports this was not a case of that happening.

HMS benefited in this instance because Jimmie Johnson inherited the lead and went on to win.

For those who would offer up the case of Greg Biffle’s 2007 win in Kansas when he slowed dramatically coming to the checkered flag under caution, that is a poor comparison. Biffle did not stop on the track. The rule does not state a specific speed a car is to maintain under caution other than to say the car is to maintain a reasonable speed. That vagary in the rule book saved Biffle in his situation. He was probably going at least 25-30mph when he crossed the finish line and since the rules do not spell out specific speeds that was considered good enough.

Despite what Ambrose said in his post race interview, this was not a judgment call. This was straightforward and clear cut.

I have been following Marcos Ambrose since he drove in Australia and have been a fan of his ever since. I very much hoped he would hold on for the win at Sonoma but he did not. He has no one other than himself to blame for what happened.

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

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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