Who could forget this time last year? Coming to the checkered flag, Tony is leading a three car parade, followed closely by the DEI team mates of Regan Smith and Paul Menard. Normally, when teammates are drafting behind the leader at a plate track, the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
The way this thing should have played out? Regan gives Paul a hand signal, they pull out together, Paul gives him a well-placed bump draft. They both blow by Tony, relegating him to third, while Regan and DEI get a much-needed victory.
Due in large part to the fact that neither Regan or Paul were used to being in this position, we all know that’s not how it played out. Instead, Smith either made a move, or faked high. When Tony- mirror driving to the max- pulled out to block. Regan dove low, while Paul basically laid back and watched things develop in
front of him. Tony threw a second block putting his car on the yellow line. Tony and Regan touched with Regan making the pass, but going below the yellow line to complete it.
Despite a patch of
Home Depot Orange Subway yellow and green on Regan’s front bumper to substantiate his claim that he was forced down in the act of passing to avoid a wreck, he was stripped of the win by NASCAR.
To add insult to injury, during his Victory Circle interview, instead of thanking Regan for not wrecking him, Tony crows and rubs it in.
I understand that unlimited blocking is legal in NASCAR. I understand that the yellow line serves as an out of bounds at plate tracks. I also understand that this was a call that could have gone either way. Had NASCAR taken a look at the orange paint on Smith’s car and ruled differently, perhaps blocking wouldn’t be quite as popular this year.
Fast forward to the spring race at Talladega this year. Brad Keselowski and Cousin Carl hook up, and blow by a surprised Junior and Ryan Newman, who figured to settle it among themselves. Perhaps with an eye on last year, Brad makes a move, Carl throws a block, and Brad elects to drive through rather than around. The result? A spectacular wreck for Carl, a most surprising win for Brad.
For the fans who want to see wrecks, they probably aren’t too upset about any of this. One thing that no one likes was the black eye for the sport and the injuries to several fans by very real, as opposed to phantom debris.
Daytona. Fourth of July. Another ill-advised block. This time by Kyle Busch. Another wreck. One thing that I think you can bet on this week: is that if someone puts a move on Jimmie Johnson late in the race, he probably won’t be doing any blocking.
PHOTO CREDITS- Edwards’ Talladega Flip by Walter G. Arce. to see more, visit flickr.com. Tony Stewart at ‘Dega in 2008 by Chris Graythen/ Getty Images. Edwards’ Talladega rub by Jerry Markland/ Getty Images for NASCAR. Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch wreck at Daytona by Streeter Lecka/ Getty Images for NASCAR.