By admin | February 20, 2011
By Richard Allen
It can’t be easy to come as close to fulfilling a lifelong dream as David Ragan came on Sunday in the Daytona 500 and then lose it at the very end. And what would seem to be even worse is to have lost out on that dream due to an arbitrary call over a meaningless rule.
As the field came to the first of what ultimately wound up as two green/white/checkered restarts Ragan moved his car quickly to the inside lane to get in front of eventual winner Trevor Bayne just as the two had discussed over their in-car radios moments before.
Ragan and Bayne had spent most of the race’s final laps drafting together around the 2.5 mile facility. Ragan made the move to allow he and Bayne to continue working together over the final run to the finish. However, NASCAR deemed that he had made his move to the inside before he crossed the start/finish line, which is in fact a violation.
But the real problem here is NASCAR’s policy of being consistently inconsistent on these type matters. And furthermore, this is really a judgment call more than anything else. It is somewhat the equivalent of foul calls in basketball. If officials wanted to, they could call a foul on every possession. If they specifically looked for something every time they would see it every time. Instead, they call fouls when they are obvious and have an impact on the particular play. Common sense has to prevail or else the flow of the game would be terribly interrupted.
The NASCAR rule in question here is one meant to keep one driver from jumping a restart and getting an unfair advantage over another. In this case, Bayne wanted Ragan to do what he did. They had planned it that way. That is the reason as the leader Ragan had chosen to lineup on the outside row rather than the inside.
At Daytona, the rule is meaningless. At Martinsville, it’s worthwhile to enforce it.
To me, this was the case of officials specifically looking for something to call that in the grand scheme of things did not matter. Making this call, in my opinion, was the same as deciding the NCAA Final Four by whistling a ticky-tack foul 50 feet from the basket in the closing seconds of a game.
But to me, here is the worst part. And if I were Ragan it is the part that would trouble me most. Michael Waltrip pulled into victory lane in Friday night’s truck race in Daytona with the right half of his spoiler laying flat on the back of his truck. That is a clear violation, no matter whether it was intended or not. And more, it is a glaringly obvious violation. It was not like his truck was found to be one-eighth inch too low in the NASCAR R&D Center the following Tuesday. Everyone could see it right then and there.
There is an official who stands on pit road at the end of each race to measures the spoiler angles as cars come off the track. This is not a judgment call, it is objective. The spoiler either meets regulation or it doesn’t.
Ragan’s team owner, Jack Roush, had his thoughts on the matter after Sunday’s race. “From where I was sitting, and of course with my prejudiced position, I didn’t see that he did anything wrong,” Roush said. “The question is whether they would have made that call for one of the established guys.”
This was the biggest race on the schedule and one competitor who had a chance to win was denied that chance by an subjective judgment call. That’s not good officiating in my opinion.
For my story on east Tennessean Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win please visit TennesseeRacer.com http://tennesseeracer.com/?p=1415
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