After Brad Keselowski won last week's Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway, runner-up Carl Edwards told reporters about what he perceived to be a failed attempt by Keselowski to get Edwards penalized on a restart.
On the restart in question, Edwards had initially gone past race leader Keselowski, but the eventual race winner quickly zoomed back by in a faster car.
As Edwards explained it: "The reason I cleared him on the one restart is because he was doing his best to get me black-flagged. So he lifted (off the gas) after he went to make sure I crossed the line first and he let me clear him. I think he realized they weren't going to give me the black flag, so he made sure to go back by. I thought that was pretty interesting."
Edwards added the restart was one of several unnecessary "little tricks" Keselowski tried to pull during the race and said it was "almost a little comical to watch a guy have that fast of a car trying to do all these little things he didn't need to do."
The next day, Edwards raised the subject of restarts in the Sprint Cup Series drivers' meeting. Without mentioning Keselowski by name, Edwards asked NASCAR what would happen if the second-place car beat the leader to the start/finish line in the event of a false start.
At the time, NASCAR seemed to dismiss Edwards' question. Officials publicly told Edwards to make sure the second-place car didn't cross the starting line first regardless of the circumstances – that's a penalty. But they also said they'd keep an eye on it.
A few hours later, Keselowski was leading the race coming to a restart with 22 laps remaining. NASCAR came over the radio and warned the driver not to give officials a reason to believe he was engaging in any funny business on the restart. Keselowski promptly lost the lead to eventual winner Jimmie Johnson.
Edwards' comments and the NASCAR warning seemed to bother Keselowski (he referred to it as "BS" on Twitter) and after his qualifying lap on Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Keselowski was still unhappy about how the sequence of events went down.
"The only thing that changes the way you restart is when NASCAR comes over and gives you hell about it," Keselowski said. "Hell, they were giving me hell about it before the race ever started. It certainly wasn't anything I was pleased about, no."
The Restart Game
Keselowski compared NASCAR restarts to a game of paper-rock-scissors. There are three basic options for the leader: Take off as soon as he gets into the restart zone; wait as long as possible and then take off; or give an indication that he's taking off but then slow down either by tapping the brakes or letting off the gas.
"Brake-checking," as it's called, is frowned upon by NASCAR. And that's what officials warned Keselowski against doing at Kansas.
"I didn't the day before, that's the ironic part," Keselowski said. "The move that I pulled to beat Carl on Saturday in Kansas, I didn't pull the one that he accused me of."
But because NASCAR stepped in and told Keselowski they were watching him closely, the driver felt officials essentially took away one of his paper-rock-scissors options.
"For every strategy there is, there is a counter," he said. "...If a guy pulls out paper, you're like ‘I've got ya – scissors!' So when NASCAR comes over the radio and takes one of those away from you, that just makes it easier for the other one. And I think in this particular instance that's what they were trying to do."
Keselowski has watched a race from the scoring tower before and sympathizes with officials for the difficult "ball-strike calls" they have to make. The driver said it's very hard to see exactly when the cars hit the restart zone and if they go early or late.
So he could have ignored NASCAR's command and gambled by still pulling his move anyway. However, he added, "it's not worth the risk" to try.
Ultimately, that's what he was still upset about. Because Edwards raised the subject and Keselowski was warned, the Penske Racing driver had one less weapon in his arsenal when going for the win.
"What they had actually warned me against doing," Keselowski said, "was exactly what Jimmie did on the last restart."