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FRANCKLY SPEAKING: NASCAR Should Put Caution Lights on Digital Dash

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Sunday’s fiasco, Matt Kenseth overlooking a black flag, is a pretty good reason for NASCAR to put race control lights on the new digital dash.

Kenseth, who had been leading the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, was penalized after his fueler put a wedge wrench on the rear decklid of this his Toyota while gassing up the No. 20 Toyota during a pit stop.

NASCAR rules are very clear that a fueler, when engaged in refilling a car, cannot attempt any other task at the same time. The sanctioning issued a penalty requiring the 2003 Cup champion to do a drive-through penalty but he continued to turn laps as if he was not penalized.

While his crew chief, Jason Ratliff, was arguing against the penalty Kenseth continued to drive as if there was no penalty, claiming he wasn’t aware of it.

Eventually Race Control stopped scoring the Wisconsin native and he finally pitted returning to the fray two laps down.

“I was riding around and I had no idea we had any problems on pit road or that there was a penalty,” Kenseth said in a post race interview. “I guess they were black flagging us, and I didn’t know it; the spotter never said anything and Jason didn’t tell me. So I didn’t know anything about it.”

One might wonder why Kenseth did not observe the penalty flag, but even so his back-ups –the spotter and crew chief — failed to tell him about the sanction and that turned what was a promising day into a disaster.

That brings us to the much-heralded “digital dash,” introduced full-time this year. If that device is programmable why not add lights to indicate track conditions, red, yellow and green? And, taken a step further, a penalty light could be added.

Before you start telling me to stick to Formula One if I want another gadget in a NASCAR cockpit, let me tell you that the governing body has considered it more than ten years ago.

Back in the summer of 2004, then NASCAR’s vice president of communications, the late Jim Hunter, told reporters that (the yellow light on the dash) was being considered at the time. And IndyCar has been using them before that.

Obviously things like caution lights on a driver’s dash have not been implemented.

It’s time to act now. Think of safety. A warning light is another way to make sure the driver is aware of conditions on the track. Secondly, it might have prevented Kenseth’s dilemma when his team failed to inform him of the penalty.

This isn’t rocket science the Cup cars already have transponders sending data they could be configured to receive data also.

And Kenseth might not be as perplexed as he is already.

EMAIL LEWIS AT lewis.franck@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @LewisFranck

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