BRISTOL, Tenn. – One of the biggest points of confusion following Sunday’s Food City 500 was the late-race black flag and pass-through penalty issued to Brad Keselowski after the race’s final restart.
Keselowski, who dominated the event at Bristol Motor Speedway along with his Team Penske teammates, came to pit road for tires and blended back out onto the track in a gaggle of cars.
The catch? Some were a lap or more down, while two of those cars were on the lead lap.
That led to chaos as to where Keselowski should have lined up when the green flag waved for the final time with 14 to go.
He and his team believed they should have been fifth. In actuality, they were seventh, because neither Ryan Newman nor Clint Bowyer had pitted and both should have been ahead of Keselowski.
NASCAR tried to communicate this fact through Keselowski’s spotter, Coleman Pressley, but the message never got through to Keselowski and he was three wide when the restart occurred, leading to the black-flag decree from NASCAR officials.
Rather than bringing home a likely top-five finish, Keselowski ended up a lap down in 18th and was frustrated after climbing from his No. 2 Ford Mustang.
“Nobody could figure out the lineup,” Keselowski said. “There wasn’t enough communication and it was just a tough deal.”
He then went to the NASCAR hauler for an explanation, and after getting home from Bristol Sunday night, Keselowski admitted that NASCAR “made the right call” on penalizing him and explained where the breakdown in communication and positioning occurred.
“When I pitted, I came out on to the race track and I merged that I thought were the lapped cars,” Keselowski said on Periscope. “But hidden in those lapped cars were … two lead-lap cars, who by the rules, should get to go in front of us even if we pit and beat them off pit road. Lead lap cars that don’t pit always go in front of lead lap cars that do pit. But we couldn’t see them.
“Things happen so fast at Bristol, we didn’t know,” Keselowski added. “As a team, we kind of miscommunicated. There are four of five checks and balances to make sure that doesn’t happen and pretty much every one of them fell through, starting with me not seeing those cars mixed in with the lapped cars and kind of carrying all the way throughout the team.
“The last check, which was NASCAR … we struggled with that one, too, but I can’t really be too mad with them because we had at least two or three opportunities to get it right on our end. We didn’t get it right on our end.”
NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning and further clarified things from NASCAR’s point of view.
“The thing is, it’s really actually pretty simple,” Miller said. “We were trying to get him in the right spot in the lineup and we were communicating with his spotter via the race channel, which is their responsibility to listen to per the rule book. Numerous times we told him the (No.) 6 car (of Ryan Newman) belonged in front of him, and to give him space to get in there, and he didn’t. As we talked to Brad after the race, there was a breakdown in communication on their side, because he never really received that communication from his spotter.
“That’s where the problems started and obviously, unfortunately, it didn’t end the way Brad wanted it to end,” Miller added. “However, it’s their responsibility to monitor what we’re saying and what we’re trying to get things to do, and it didn’t appear that happened as it should have.
“We expected Brad to be there when we got (back to the NASCAR hauler) and he certainly was.”