Race control judgement calls take center stage in Talladega Truck Series race
The results were dictated by which calls were or were not made on Saturday
The outcome of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors NASCAR Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was twice affected by judgement calls from the scoring tower.
And in the name of consistency, there were several other instances in which it looked as if race control could have interjected.
The most notable judgment call came in the final moments of the race when NASCAR deemed that leader Johnny Sauter forced pursuer Riley Herbst below the out of bounds line. As a result, race control stripped Sauter of the win and gave it to Spencer Boyd.
But even before that, NASCAR race control made a decision that may have had implications on the race, and a pair of Truck Series championship contenders.
Leaders Stewart Friesen and Brett Moffitt were deemed to have locked bumpers while drafting away from the pack. NASCAR rules only allow for bumping, so the pair were forced to drop off the track and serve a stop-and-go penalty.
The problem was that television couldn’t find clear evidence that they were locking bumpers. Meanwhile, there were several confirmed instances of drivers locking bumpers earlier in the race that went uncalled.
Both Moffitt and Friesen, who rallied to finish fourth and fifth, were incredulous towards the penalty after the race.
“I don’t really know what to say about anything,” Friesen said. “I didn’t see it. I have no idea, no clue. But we were fortunate to get back to the lead lap and get a fifth out of it.”
Moffitt was furious over the radio at the time of the penalty and doubled-down on that sentiment afterwards.
“I would love to see It, love to see where we locked bumpers because I was very conscious of it and staying off him, giving him a bubble,” Moffitt said. “I would love to see proof. Everyone’s pushing the limit.’’
NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller addressed the officiating call after the race.
“So those are tough calls and I think there were several instances where we were all looking at each other, ‘Is that too much? Is that too much?’ Miller said. “So, there was really no other choice but to make that call.”
That call was not, however, made on the final lap.
Right before Sauter forced Herbst below the yellow line, Boyd was himself pushing Herbst without the benefit of unlocking bumpers.
The bumper-locking penalty could have proven disastrous to Friesen and Moffitt, who remain eligible for the championship, had they been caught up in a crash when they could have remained near the front of the field.
As it stands, they left first and second in the championship standings with a pair of top-5s, relieved that nothing came out of the penalty.
“Now had that played out like Daytona where we (went to) the back and ended up in a wreck I’d be a little more upset about it,” Moffitt said. “But the fact we had really good Chevrolets here today and were able to rebound – all three of us – it’s frustrating but ultimately we did our job and out-pointed everyone in the playoffs.”