The NASCAR Busch series visited Canada for the first time ever today. Longtime open wheel racer and local guy Patrick Carpentier took a surprising pole position, and then proceeded to lead the first few laps of todays race.The race was pretty uneventful until the last few laps, and ended amongst chaos, which will probably result in a number of protests, fines and even suspensions depending on how NASCAR officials view the end of the race.
A late race caution for oil on the track left Marcos Ambrose out front after leading for more than 20 laps. Robby Gordon was lined up behind him, with Kevin Harvick, Scott Pruett, Patrick Carpentier and others closely bunched right behind Ambrose and Gordon.
Ambrose got a great restart and got the jump on Gordon. Going into the hairpin on that lap there was an accident, triggered by Kevin Harvick going side by side with Scott Pruett, with Pruett being spun around in front of the field. The result was a huge crash involving a number of cars, many of who had avoid contact all day. Meanwhile the yellow flag was thrown, but at the same time Ambrose and Gordon clashed twice, firstly as Gordon got around Ambrose, leaving the back of Ambroses car beat up, and then a second time as Gordon slowed up and Ambrose appeard to run into the back of him, leaving Gordon sitting on the side of the track while a number of cars went past.
During the caution period Robby Gordon moved through the field, pulling even with Ambrose at the head of the field, and made his feelings clear to Ambrose. Gorden felt he should be restarting at the front of the field as he felt he had been spun under caution. The NASCAR officials disagreed, and asked Gordon to drop back to 12th place. At this point the race had run it’s distance, and the race was to end under a green white checker. With all the front running car low on gas, any more caution laps would have led to even more chaos.
NASCAR waved the green flag, despite Gordon restarting right behind Ambrose, and being told he would be black flagged, and it was clear right away that Gordon’s only mission was to take Ambrose out, which he did within a few corners of the restart.Gorden then proceeded to pull away form the field, leaving Ambrose to scramble back to 7th after what appeared to be a certain first win. Back in the pack, Kevin Harvick emerged in front of Patrick Carpentier, for what was actually the win, with Gordon being black flagged.
Gordon then tried to go to victory lane and stated in an interview that he felt he was the winner, completing all the laps of the race in front of the field. NASCAR however had a different view and Harvick was wheeled into victory lane after a smoky donut ridden victory lap. Interestingly instead of the usual one car doing celebration donuts, Carpentier was also seen around the circuit doing donuts as well.
In the dying seconds of the telecast Ambrose was interviewed. While very disappointed at being cheated out of his first win he was still smiling and seemed to be genuinely happy to have been a front runner all day, despite the outcome.
There are many questions raised in those last couple of laps, and NASCAR is going to have it’s hands full in the next couple of days figuring it out, deducting points and levying fines. Going back to the first Ambrose Gordon incident, it is not clear who did what to whom. All that was seen was Gordon emerging as the leader after passing Ambrose, while the back of Ambrose’s car was beat up, which it had not been before they clashed. If the yellow was out already for the accident behind them, then Gordon did pass under the yellow, if not then it must either be declared as a racing incident, or Gordon must be punished. As for the second incident a few hundred feet later, it probably did happen under the caution, but it appears that Gordon did slow up, probably as he realized that they were under caution (remember the caution was caused by cars behind them, so they may not have noticed at that point) and Ambrose did run into the back of him. Whether Gordon was then entitled to restart 2nd again we are not sure, but as NASCAR asked him to move back to 12th we can only assume he should not have restarted in 2nd.
Moving forward from there, under caution Gordon did come up alongside Ambrose and at one point forced Ambrose off the track, all while circulating behind the pace car. That in itself must be a punishable offense in NASCAR’s book. NASCAR was then caught between a rock and a hard place, most of the front of the field would have run out of gas if they had to go much further, so they needed to get the green white checker finish underway. Unfortunately though Gordon had made his intentions quite clear during that caution period, firstly forcing Ambrose off the track, and then a number of times running into the back of Ambrose as they circulated slowly under caution.
After his behavior during the caution, and with his refusal to move back to 12th, NASCAR really should not have re-started the race when they did. The field should not have restarted until Gordon either went back to 12th, or was removed from the field, but it was restarted and as expected Gordon just ran Ambrose off the road. Given that they did restart then, as soon as Gordon punted Ambrose off, the caution should have flown immediately and Ambrose should have been declared the winner. To let a black flagged car alter the outcome of the race is shameful, and NASCAR should look at this very carefully.
In Robby Gordon’s defense, there has always been a grace period of 2-3 laps after a driver once he has been shown the black flag for him to report to the pit to serve a penalty, but in this case it was a green white checker so there was some confusion as to what should happen in this case.
No matter what, Gordon should never have restarted that race in 2nd, ending the race under caution would have been better than the way it ended. The next few days will be interesting, as would the line at NASCARS truck this evening.