Edwards questions penalty on late race restart
That #18-Kyle Busch won his fourth consecutive spring race at the 0.75-mile oval was overshadowed by the fact that #99-Carl Edwards and #14-Tony Stewart both thought a possible win was ripped from their clutches. Edwards felt he was incorrectly penalized for jumping a restart with 82 laps to go. A black flag forced him to pass through the pits at 40 mph, dropping him from second to 15th.
"I don't think it's right. I don't agree with it," said Edwards, who wound up 10th. Stewart, meanwhile, thought a debris caution that ultimately cost him the lead on the race's final restart with nine to go wasn't necessary.
"When the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it's hard to feel good losing that one," said Stewart, who settled for third. For Edwards, the flap was anything but welcome. He was told by his crew that his #99 Ford was the leader - something the RIR infield scoring tower (and Fox TV's scrawl) validated in real-time - and said he reacted as such on the restart, even though he was starting on the unpreferred outside lane with Stewart on the inside.
"They told my spotter Jason (Hedlesky) three times, 'The 99's the leader.' At that point, I'm thinking it's my job to start this race," said Edwards, who at the time thought NASCAR had made a mistake in not letting him pick the inside lane as the leader. "I think NASCAR then saw the restart, they didn't like what they saw for some reason, and they black-flagged us. Which I don't think they should've done." The Roush Fenway Racing driver, crew chief Bob Osborne and Hedlesky were summoned to NASCAR's hauler after the race, and they emerged disappointed. What was said? "I'd rather not say," Edwards said.
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton was steadfast about two things: Stewart's #14 Chevy was the leader, and Edwards jumped the restart. "All of the above," he reiterated. Pemberton said the automated scoring system probably tallied Edwards as the leader under caution, even though he said NASCAR made teams aware that the starting order was Stewart then Edwards. Even if Edwards was leading, Pemberton said he would have been black-flagged for starting before reaching the designated restart zone, which was Edwards' main point of contention. USA Today