By: Ashley McCubbin
A.J. Allmendinger may have had one of the most impressive runs through the field on Saturday in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but it will probably be lost due to rules and unnecessary confusion.
Through the B&L Transport 170, the No. 16 Chevrolet was one of the fastest on-track, among the three cars to watch. It looked as though he had played his cards right to be at the front for the end, until he got penalized for not spending enough time on pit road – 50 seconds.
A late-race caution due to his teammate Jeb Burton was the icing on the cake, but Allmendinger proved why he is always going to be the one you look towards at road courses. By averaging a pass a lap for eight circuits in a row, combined with a three-wide move on a late restart, the performance of the year netted a trip to victory lane.
Allmendinger is known as a road course ace and insists he is doing this gig with Kaulig Racing because he is having fun and to go after trophies. Though a glance at the year overall, and boom, you could easily make him a title contender. He is currently second in points to defending champion Austin Cindric, with just two finishes outside the top-15 including eight top-five’s in 13 events.
A great battle for the title shaping up with plenty of possible faces as you could add Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier to the conversation, but it is quickly being overshadowed by sanctioning body decisions.
With this being a stand-alone event, NASCAR elected to mix up the pit road rules to match those utilized by ARCA officials. Teams were not allowed to change tires and fuel the car at the same time, and would not lose their position in relation to those who pitted with them. However, if someone chose to stay out, you start behind them. Also, you could not take on new rubber under green flag conditions.
The other kicker – if you chose to elect for service under green, you must be on pit road for 50 seconds total, from when you enter, to stopping in your box, and leaving.
The rules were meant to allow for teams to cheapen on budget by bringing in “professionals,” utilizing those who work in the shop with bare training. The ideology behind it is on-par and for the most part, works well in the ladder series. However, two things did not allow for it to work accordingly.
1. The fans who are not used to this system did not get a proper showcase of everything. FOX Sports skipped showing the second round of stops, instead electing for commercials and to try and explain the line-up afterwards. It makes a difference as when used in ARCA, its easily understood by the audience due to uninterrupted coverage on Trackpass, including a full explanation in watching it happen.
Now Adam Alexander did a good job when they came back from commercial, as someone who knows the format would get why they lined up as shown. However, for those who were unaware of the different stepped procedure in pitting, they were left confused as to why their driver is now starting possibly 10 spots further back than they were.
2. “Minimum pit road time” is probably the dumbest part of this rule package. Keep everything they have with the pit road package – except for that. Racing is all about who is the fastest whether on-track or through creating the best strategy. Being told to hit a certain time to “remain in contention” defeats everything.
Unfortunately this was not the only thing that took away from the action on Saturday, either.
“The Crash Clock” gives no benefit to someone who makes it to pit road versus resulting in a caution falling. Drivers get critiqued for bringing out yellow flags with damage, so perhaps there should be a reward shown for being able to do that, like maybe an extended clock.
NASCAR also continued the tradition of wasting laps under caution for another week, with four to six laps being taken away from possible great racing.
These comments may sound harsh and have become a constant theme at times in the Observations pieces. But a sanctioning body at a national level should be able to run a better show than local short track officials, who seem to run an event weekly without problems. These are the individuals everybody looks up to. Should they not be held to a higher standard?
Mistakes will happen, and that is fine. They should be analyzed, understood, and fixed for future usage. However, seeing certain things repeated over shows no accountability and there lies the bigger problem.
Outside of all these negative points, there’s been some great action by the drivers on-track with some battles that stand out. Talent has also been on the display. But it sucks when poor officiating and rules take drivers out of contention and affect the complexion of the race.