OBSERVATIONS: Powershares QQQ 300
The fans may have been treated to the closest finish in NASCAR XFINITY Series history with Tyler Reddick edging out Elliott Sadler in the Powershares QQQ 300, but it didn’t come without controversy or endless overtime attempts.
Although there have been concerns about a lack of competitiveness at times in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drafting package, those were unheard of in regards to the XFINITY drivers. From the drop of the green flag to the checkered, the competitors ran side-by-side for position. It was risky at times, with some of the blocks at the front of the field to keep the lead by the likes of Joey Logano and Kyle Larson, but everybody managed to escape trouble until the final laps.
Two of the drivers who had put themselves in position to challenge for the win in the late stages were JR Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Sadler, running up to second and third. But a push from Sadler, locking bumpers with the rear of Elliott’s No. 88 Chevrolet, resulted in a penalty from NASCAR for both. As in previous years, drivers may bump draft each other, but they cannot lock bumpers.
It’s one thing to penalize the driver who enables the push – Sadler in this case – as they are making the choice to plant themselves against their fellow competitor, knowing the risk of being penalized is out there. But, is it fair to penalize the driver getting pushed?
I don’t get why the car in front gets penalized in the locking bumper situation. Like what can the guy in front do to get himself out of that situation without wrecking himself or others?
— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) February 17, 2018
It goes without saying that Elliott gains an advantage from receiving the push from Sadler, but was it his choice to be pushed? He gets no say in the matter, as he can’t stop that person from doing what they’re doing. Now, there is a possibility that Elliott could break the draft, but we know the trouble that would cause instead.
Since NASCAR implemented this rule, it has caused controversy at every turn, whether both drivers should be penalized, and whether it is always implemented. If you re-watch the end of the race, you can see that Ryan Reed was locked on Reddick’s bumper pushing him to the win. So where’s the penalty there, if the sanctioning body wants to be fair across the board?
“I’ve got a misunderstanding of the rule, so I’m sure they’ll explain it to me,” Sadler commented post-race. “I’ll get a phone call Monday, and they’ll explain to me what their interpretation of the rule is and what my interpretation of the rule is.
“I thought you couldn’t lock bumpers to gain a position. That’s what I thought. I thought that’s what they’ve always said. So obviously now it’s not that, which you can black flag every single car in the field because, I mean, I tandem ‑‑ out of the 143 laps, 90 laps we were tandem‑‑ not the whole way around, but either down the frontstretch or down the backstretch or whatever. I’ve got to get an interpretation of what the rule really means.”
Races mired by controversy stir the ire of the fans, taking away from the action that happened. The finish won’t be remembered in the weeks to come, but rather a penalty with 25 laps to go before the drama at the end. Is that what the sport wants when it seems like a pointless rule?
Drafting on the restrictor plate tracks is supposed to be about who can make the most of the draft, the tools available of them, and making the moves that they can within their toolbox. It’s time that NASCAR takes themselves out of the box and lets the drivers play.
Plenty of times last night we all locked bumpers for a good bit, would like to see nascar due away with this rule. It’s hard to judge from the drivers seat if your locked or not. It’s a grey area for sure.
— Justin Haley (@Justin_Haley_) February 17, 2018
This wasn’t the only rule that came up in the discussion of this event, though, as the yellow line came back up as it did in the Advance Auto Parts Clash last Sunday.
With 21 laps to go, Reed pushed Ryan Truex down below yellow line, causing a wreck in turns three and four when Truex came back up onto the surface. NASCAR penalized Reed for forcing Truex, sending Reed to the back of the field for the restart.
The yellow line was brought into the rulebook to stop drivers from trying to get runs on the apron down the back, causing them to get a poor entry into turn three and cause a big wreck. However, through the years, it has become questionable whether drivers chose to go down, or were forced, at times.
It’s no question reviewing the replays that Reed pushed Truex below the line entering the corner. However, Reed still feels he was unfairly punished, stating that he was just trying to save his car.
“I guess I forced the‑‑ I got loose and the 11 had to avoid me, so I forced him below the yellow line,” Reed said post-race.
So, is it fair to penalize a driver who is simply trying to save their car? Another angle to think about.
But even with these concerns, it goes without saying that the XFINITY Series put together the best race of Speedweeks so far, even if it took multiple overtime attempts and chaos to get there.
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