Penny's Two Cents: What Happened at Adirondack? by Penny Aicardi
Veteran BES Writer Offers Her Commentary on Situations Involving Two Veteran Drivers
Kobyluck brings the field around to start the race at Adirondack. Later in the event, he would be penalized for a restart. (NASCAR / Mike Keon Photo)
Where did everything go wrong?
That may be the very question that a lot of competitors, particularly two, are asking themselves after the Edge Hotel 150 at Adirondack Speedway. Oh sure, the race seemed just like any other race up until ten laps to go, but after that, nothing seemed to be right.
Okay, okay, maybe you missed the coverage of the Edge 150 here on Speed51.com? Let me bring you up to date: Matt Kobyluck was dominating the race and had led all but 14 laps up until a restart at lap 141. NASCAR believed on that restart that Kobyluck had jumped the green. Kobyluck made amends during green flag action and lifted off the throttle until Bryon Chew was side-by-side with him. NASCAR felt this accommodation just wasn’t enough and they black-flagged him. On lap 144, Kobyluck came in and served his penalty, but he clearly wasn’t happy with it. After the race, Kobyluck made a point to let everyone know his displeasure when he pulled into victory lane and gave a heated post-race interview after signaling a thumbs-down to the tower.
After Kobyluck was sent to the pits, Bryon Chew took the reigns up front. He was headed for a win – at least, we media-types in the press box thought so - but on the last lap, cars starting spinning everywhere and Joey Logano capitalized on it. It was a blast to watch him wheel the car the way he did to get that win, but it was also a little hairy for the rest of the field. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it was a dangerous.
If that’s not enough controversy for you, then this is your day. Tuesday evening, NASCAR officials announced that they were taking away Bryon Chew’s second place finish, suspended his crew chief for three races, and put him on probation until the end of the year for “violating Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-CC (any competitor who uses a rear-end gear ratio that violates the specified rear-end gear and transmission ratio during an Event; unapproved rear-end gear ratio) of the 2007 NASCAR Grand National Division Busch East Series Rule Book.”
That’s a lot to digest for one race, but to say it bluntly, two of our full-time drivers got the shaft this week.
Let’s begin with Matt Kobyluck.
When restarts are discussed, the officials always tell the drivers that restarts are at a set of lines painted on the track or a set of cones that are placed at the restart point for their reference. However, they are told that they can fire “in the vicinity of” these markers. If NASCAR wanted Kobyluck, or any other driver for that matter, to start the race in a specific place, perhaps they shouldn’t use a phrase that insinuates approximations. Just say, you have to restart the race at the cones or at the double lines. It doesn’t make much sense to me to be vague here.
In previous weeks, NASCAR has warned leaders of jumping the start. They did it to Sean Caisse at Thompson, and at NHIS, they made Brad Leighton give up the lead to Joey Logano for the very same reason. Why not allow the same courtesy at Adirondack? Throwing the black flag should not be the first response, but a last resort. Throwing it with only nine laps left totally takes that driver out of contention.
Now I don’t know what the officials were thinking. I do know that they believe he got a two carlength jump on the rest of the field. I also don’t believe in do-overs – this series is way past that. They should have first been consistent in what they’ve done all year – warn the guy, make him give up the spot – anything that would have given the appearance of impartiality. But they didn’t. They just threw that flag.
Do I think the Edge 150 was fixed? Absolutely not. Do I think the NASCAR officials were out to get Matt Kobyluck in particular? No. But this case sure makes it appear that way, and it will make people talk that way.
The #40 team of Matt Kobyluck and the #99 team of Bryon Chew weren't smiling much atfer Adirondack.
The fastest car doesn’t always win the race, but the fastest car shouldn’t be taken out of the race by NASCAR either unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Now, on to Bryon Chew.
First, let’s simplify NASCAR’s explanation. He basically lost his finish, his points, his money, and his crew chief because he had the wrong gear in the car. Honestly, that kind of mistake warrants a penalty, but the one this team got was enormous. The severity of a penalty seemingly goes along with how much of an advantage or disadvantage a team had with the unapproved part, which in this case was the wrong gear. [for more on the Chew situation, click here]
Last month, a team in the Busch East Series was caught with illegal front springs. At NHIS, this is a major competitive advantage yet the team was only fined $250. They did not lose their finish, they did not lose points, and they certainly did not lose their crew chief for three races.
What Ron SteMarie (Chew’s crew chief) did was use a gear for a 4.86 ring and pinion gear assembly when they run a 4.11. It’s a lower gear than what is allowed. Andy Santerre explained it to be like a person driving a stick shift in third or fourth gear all the time. At some tracks, Mike Olsen explained, the lower gear would be noticeable, but at Adirondack, it’s not. Everyone I spoke with said it would definitely affect his restarts.
Okay, hopefully, my technical details make the situation a little more clear. The point I’m trying to make is that while he did have a rule infraction, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. The team claims it was a mistake, and according to several drivers, one that is very easy to make. The people at Buzz Chew Racing are not stupid enough to cheat in an area that they know NASCAR checks every week. Did he deserve to get off scott free? Absolutely not! It’s a mistake I guarantee they will never make again, but one that could not be completely overlooked.
Here’s my problem with the whole situation. Ron SteMarie, or Spot, as he’s known around the pit area, is the backbone of Buzz Chew Racing. He’s the crew chief, the truck driver, and the fabricator. This is not the type of operation that employs a shop full of guys. I’m not trying to lessen the importance of the rest of the team, but Spot sets that car up, makes the adjustments, and leads that team. To suspend him is putting this team in quite a predicament. Wasn’t losing the finish, the money, and the points enough? Why add salt to the wound?
In conclusion, I guess my point is that Adirondack was a complete mess. I don’t want to take anything away from Joey Logano because he did what any driver would have done by going for the win, but two bad calls in one night against two of the very few veterans left in this series is no doubt going to bring out the conspiracy theories. Does NASCAR want the younger drivers to win? Do they want to chase out the veterans? Only NASCAR can answer that, but actions like last week certainly gave credence to the people who think the answers to those questions are yes.