Every basketball official has been accused of swallowing his whistle.
Every football officiating crew has been accused of taking over a game with countless yellow hankies.
Too much oversight. Too little. Nobody’s ever right.
So, on those rare occasions when a sport can eliminate human judgment, it should.
NASCAR is currently using timing loops to nail pit road speeders, and hopefully after Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 the fine folks at the R&D Center in Concord will make one of their next big projects the use of similar technology to decide fair and unfair restarts.
Following Carl Edwards’ win, Jimmie Johnson complained that Edwards had twice slowed down in the stretch in which he was supposed to be starting the field to the green flag. Bob Dillner confirmed on SPEED’s “NASCAR Victory Lane” that Sprint Cup Race Director David Hoots had reminded drivers before Sunday’s race that they must maintain their speed in that stretch.
If Edwards was slowing down intentionally, it was fine gamesmanship. By easing his RPMs, Johnson had to woe down his car because if he had gotten to the start-finish line before Edwards, he would have been penalized. In theory, Edwards could use that strategy to slow down Johnson, then slam on the gas pedal just before the green flag and fly away from the pack.
Fans of Edwards and Johnson will be slicing and dicing each other on Twitter all week long debating what the truth is.
Why? This is math. Either Edwards slowed down or he didn’t. If he did, and was warned about it before the race, he shouldn’t have won the race. Heck, if he did do it twice, maybe NASCAR could’ve given him a verbal warning the first time and dinged him if he did it again. (As long as a one-warning rule is put in the books and applied to everyone regardless of the situation.)
If Edwards didn’t slow down, then we could decisively dismiss Johnson’s complaints as sour grapes.
Let’s monitor it. We’re already seeing telemetry on our television screens collected from devices inside the cars. The definitive answer to who should have won Sunday might be stored in somebody’s laptop right now. What are we arguing about?
Remember that this technology wouldn’t just be used to punish the guilty. It would also be used to absolve the innocent, like Elliott Sadler. Sadler was rooked last year in the Nationwide race at Indianapolis when Brad Keselowski spun his tires on a late restart and Sadler took the green flag first. Sadler got black-flagged, a move that very well may have cost him the Nationwide title. (Sadler finishing 15th instead of first cost him 18 points, and he ended up losing the title to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 23. But Sadler would have left Indianapolis with a sizable lead had he not been penalized, changing the entire complexion of the ensuing races.)
Using technology in last year’s case, you could determine that Keselowski, albeit accidentally, slowed down to a level that would by rule completely insulate the guy opposite him from receiving a penalty. In a case like that, no penalties would be levied. Having clear data make the decision would be the equivalent of picking up the flag in the NFL.
Leaving this call up to human judgment has likely already cost one man a championship.
Why don’t we fix this before it becomes two?
Follow Josh Stewart on Twitter @JoshNASCARWWE