The Physics of Carl’s Restart Penalty

A late race penalty on a restart for what some think was a questionable caution at Richmond set into motion circumstances that likely shifted the outcome of the race Saturday night. Once again, NASCAR’s restart rules claimed a victim – this time, Carl Edwards.

Angry after the race, Edwards said NASCAR had repeatedly told his spotter Jason Hedlesky that Edwards was the leader, meaning he got to start to race. NASCAR VP of Competition Robin Pemberton disagreed, reiterating that the #99 wasn’t the leader and even if Edwards had been, he jumped the start.

The source for all things science and NASCAR, and author of The Physics of NASCAR, Dr. Diandra has a theory that the perception in this case that Edwards jumped the start, may not have in fact been reality. It’s physics I guess…

Although the restart controversy regarding the 14 and the 99 seems to be more a matter of a communications screw up (both cars claim they were told they were P1), it raises an interesting issue in terms of what we perceive vs. what actually is.  Even sat at a train crossing and had the momentary feeling that the train was standing still and you were moving sideways? Here’s a series of animations I put together really quickly. See if they do the job.

I highly recommend reading (and viewing) the rest here and staying up with the blog Building Speed.

UPDATE: I think I was light above with detail, so I just wanted to update with Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky’s comment from below:

“Thanks for the link! Just to make sure this is viewed in the proper context, even if Edwards had been the leader, it looks pretty clearly like he jumped the restart. I wasn’t trying to say that the call was wrong, just to point out that you can’t always trust what you see!

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9 Responses to “The Physics of Carl’s Restart Penalty”

  1. Eric says:

    I thought about that Saturday night while watching. From the overhead shot, he clearly looks to accelerate before the “restart box”. I dont see the 20 decelerating.

    This could be easily solved by syncing the overhead shot with the incar cam. When do we hear the RPM’s increase? Was there telemetry?

  2. Glen Harness says:

    That’s a nice graphic and all, but the fact is, if Carl was in P1, he still started too early (way before the restart box). If he was in P2, he jumped the start (even if Stewart slowed down).

  3. drdiandra says:

    Thanks for the link! Just to make sure this is viewed in the proper context, even if Edwards had been the leader, it looks pretty clearly like he jumped the restart. I wasn’t trying to say that the call was wrong, just to point out that you can’t always trust what you see!

  4. Two notes here:
    1. No matter if Carl Edwards was the leader or not (Tony Stewart was), Edwards still jumped the restart period. There should be no arguments here, but sadly there is. Edwards screwed up plain and simple.

    2. NASCAR screwed up too. They need to take responsibility for the scoring pylon error and the NASCAR official. Saying it didn’t happen doesn’t fix anything especially there credibility in the eyes of fans.

    Basically, Edwards screwed up by jumping the start and NASCAR screwed up with the scoring pylon and a NASCAR official telling both the #99 and #14 spotters that the #99 was the leader when clearly the #14 was the leader. Plus, FOX couldn’t even tell fans watching including me who was the leader.

    Carl Edwards-NASCAR controversy is page 1 news, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishes 2nd and is now 2nd in points is page 1 news, while Kyle Busch winning is page 9 news. That about sums up Richmond despite being a good race in front of a decent crowd. Did I miss anything.

  5. windowlicker says:

    Interesting article but I find it hard to believe, given the circumstances (a restart), that everyone wasn’t accelerating (except Stewart). Alternatively, if the physics scenario is correct, (Stewart’s tires were spinning but everyone else was moving at a constant speed), and it just looked like they were accelerating, then Tony is really lucky he was spinning his tires because he was attempting to accelerate way before the starting box. He would’ve been penalized instead of Carl.

  6. Neon says:

    If we had standing starts, and get this…..standing restarts, we wouldn’t have this issue. There ya go Bruton. Save your money tearing up your track. In a ironic twist, fans will be begging for phantom cautions and late race standing starts on the high banks of at Bristol.
    IMO prior to the controversial sequence, the restarts were jumped all night long. If they would only use the actual start/finish line as the only point of the acceleration, no box is necessary. Once the leader cross the S/F first, it’s fair game, because the green flag is irrelevant at that point.

  7. Eric says:

    @windowlicker (LOL NAME), I believe Stewart either accelerated in response to Carl accelerating or purposely decelerated to draw attention to Carls move,

  8. grumpiestoldman says:

    I’d like to see replays of the other restarts that night….Anyone who goes to a local track knows that the boys always hit the accelerator before the start cone, it’s just how it goes.

  9. Woogeroo says:

    This is why we should do away with cautions altogether.



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