Carl Edwards' Richmond Penalty Was Right Despite NASCAR's Vague Explanation

Ben MontedonicoContributor IIIMay 1, 2012

Carl Edwards and the NASCAR official standing next to him are probably not on speaking terms after Saturday night's race at Richmond
Carl Edwards and the NASCAR official standing next to him are probably not on speaking terms after Saturday night's race at RichmondTodd Warshaw/Getty Images

Carl Edwards had a potential win stripped away due to a penalty Saturday night at Richmond.

That may be about all we ever know.

Where Edwards was running when he was black-flagged with 82 laps to go in Saturday night's Capital City 400 remains unclear, as does the reason Edwards was brought to pit road in the first place.

In case you missed it, let's review what happened that fateful night.

During a cycle of green-flag pit stops with just under 100 laps to go, the caution came out when Jeff Burton's No. 31 car hit the Turn 4 barrier, leaving Edwards as the only lead-lap car yet to make a pit stop.

How many cars were left on the lead lap is also unclear, though the general consensus is that it was just Edwards and Tony Stewart.

Edwards made his stop and lined up on the outside of Stewart's car for the ensuing restart with 82 laps to go. According to Edwards, NASCAR notified his spotter Jason Hedlesky that Edwards was the leader.

When the green flag waved, Edwards jumped on the gas and left Stewart in the dust, but he was black-flagged by NASCAR for what they claimed were two reasons: Edwards restarted too soon, and Stewart was the leader.

The variety of stories that have been told since that restart has left plenty of things unclear. What is clear, though, is that Edwards, who led 206 of the race's 400 laps after leading just one in the season's first eight races, was taken out of contention after NASCAR dropped the hammer.

And that's unfortunate.

But perhaps more unfortunate than Edwards' penalty is the way NASCAR has gone about explaining it, or, rather, the way they haven't gone about explaining it.

To this point, NASCAR has maintained that Edwards was black-flagged for both jumping the restart and restarting before Stewart, whom they claim to have been the leader at the time. If Stewart was indeed the leader and Edwards was told otherwise by NASCAR, that's a problem for obvious reasons. If NASCAR messed up, it is NASCAR, not Edwards, who should have taken the fall Saturday night.

That is, assuming everything else Edwards did was legal.

However, in spite of NASCAR's ridiculous explanation for why it penalized the No. 99 Saturday night, video evidence suggests that Edwards' penalty was indeed warranted.

Around the 2:00-mark in the video, Edwards' car clearly accelerates several feet before the restart box, indicated in the video by NASCAR on Fox analyst Larry McReynolds.

Edwards' accusation after the race was that Stewart, who restarted on Edwards' inside, either waited to go or spun the tires, making it appear as though Edwards hit the gas well before anybody else. But in the video, it's not just Stewart who doesn't go. It's everybody.

It's clear when looking at the replay that Edwards left early, considering that, by the time he got to the aforementioned restart box, he was one full car length ahead of Stewart and two full car lengths ahead of Joey Logano, who restarted directly behind Edwards.

The call by NASCAR in this case should have been pretty simple: Edwards restarted too early.

It's a shame that Edwards had a race ripped from his grasp because of a penalty, especially considering it was the first time all season he has really had a car capable of going to Victory Lane. But the video doesn't lie. Edwards' restart was illegal, and he deserved to see the black flag.

In all fairness to Edwards, though, he deserved a better explanation as well.