Double-file restarts get passing grade

June, 8, 2009
LONG POND, Pa. -- Crew chief Chad Knaus was fuming 105 laps into Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway. His driver had been sent to the rear of the lead-lap cars for pitting when pit road was closed under caution, and he'd just learned why the yellow flag came out.

"Caught for debris in 2," Knaus shouted to driver Jimmie Johnson over his in-car radio. "That's f---ing horse----, Darby."

He was sending a message to Sprint Cup series director John Darby, suggesting the debris caution that came out as his driver approached pit road could have been at least delayed with Johnson trapped and no way to avoid the penalty.

His displeasure remained as Johnson was asked to pull over and allow the four cars ahead of the leader at the tail of the lead lap be waved around him, as is mandated under the new double-file restart, making its debut.

"All those crazy bastards that got the wave-around, watch them!" Knaus told Johnson, restarting in 28th after being one of the top three cars in the first half of the race.

That little drama aside, double-file restarts with all the leaders up front got off without a glitch. None of the anticipated problems that came up in the drivers' meeting that lasted 20 minutes longer than normal to answer questions ever surfaced.

Race director David Hoots and the rest of his staff managed the restarts as smoothly as they did under the old system, when lead cars started single file on the outside and lapped cars single file on the inside.

Most of the drivers seemed happy with the format that NASCAR mandated because of the excitement it generated in the Sprint All-Star race. Leaders liked it because they got to race against leaders on restarts instead of lapped cars.

Those waved around liked it because they didn't have to race leaders to stay on the lead lap.

"It did make it nice," winner Tony Stewart said. "It was the perfect place to try it, and it's something the fans are going to enjoy in the future."

Carl Edwards, who finished second, made one suggestion that made sense: Let the leader start in a row by himself, a reward for being up front, then double-file restart everybody behind him.

"Other than that, I thought it was great," he said. "It was fun. It made for exciting racing. so I think that NASCAR is moving in the right direction."

Maybe NASCAR, which seems to have an open ear these days, will listen if enough agree.

Some were better on the restarts than others. Jeff Gordon admittedly struggled with it. "Boy, I tell you, it killed us," he said. "Aero-wise, my car was good in clean air. … It was a handful with the dirty air."

Johnson didn't recommend any tweaks to the restarts, but he did have a suggestion for how to help avoid being trapped on pit road when the caution comes out.

"I couldn't see a flagman or lights or anything, so hopefully they can look into a little better light system at each of the tracks," he said. "There is a very small single light that's way out from the inside. We need to relook at those things at all these racetracks that help the guys that are pitting."

He's got Knaus' vote, for sure.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?