Brad Keselowski won his third NASCAR Sprint Cup series of the season grabbing the victory Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It was the second win in the last four races for the Penske Racing driver and continues his run from back field marker to championship contender.
However, Keselowski’s win didn’t come without a question mark from at least one driver.
According to third place finisher and five time Bristol winner Jeff Gordon, Keselowski may have taken advantage of his pit stall position to speed on pit road and gain spots on the track.
“I think they’ve got to look at that because qualifying becomes such a premium,” Gordon said “We qualified pretty good and we had a pretty good stall but if you look at how the No. 2 and No. 17 were able to shoot out there I think it kind of defeats the purpose of a pit road speed.”
Gordon was referring to the locations of the pit stalls for Keselowski and Matt Kenseth and a gray area both were able to find. NASCAR is very strict when it comes to speeding on pit road, several drivers including Kurt Busch were caught exiting pit road too fast Saturday night and hit with a drive through penalty, twice for Busch.
NASCAR doesn’t simply use a radar gun to check pit road speeds, they use timing sensors along pit road. If a driver is too fast between sensors then it’s considered speeding.
The pit road at Bristol is unique since it uses stalls along the front and back stretch. During stops under caution, drivers are required to enter pit road exiting turn three and if they are pitting on the backstretch continue slowly along the apron in turns 1 and 2 and enter the backstretch pit stalls. Sensors at Bristol are placed in such a manner that several pit stalls are in between them. By choosing a pit stall between sensors, the time between the two is offset by the time spent in the pit stall. A driver can then speed getting into his stall and coming out of it, pass a few cars on pit road with very little fear of getting a speeding penalty.
Both Keselowski and Kenseth’s teams seemed to have taken advantage of the sensors locations and gained an advantage on pit road.
Winning crew chief Paul Wolfe acknowledged the fact during his post race interview without actually admitting it.
“Well, every week everybody chooses their pit stall off of how they qualify,” he said. “And you try to pick the stalls that you think will work out for you. It’s all part of the race. “
Gordon was critical of the pit road arrangement and let his feelings known after the race.
“I don’t know if there’s a little bit more of an advantage on the front straightaway than there is on the back straightaway,” he said. “But to me the whole purpose of having timing lines and pit road speed is to make it as equal and fair for everybody as you possibly can. And they’ve got some work to do at this pit road. The racetrack is awesome, but the pit road is terrible.”
“When a guy can run 60 miles an hour down pit road and the pit road speed is, what, 35, then something is wrong with the system,” he added. “We were able to do something similar to that on the back straightaway, so I don’t really feel like that’s what cost us tonight. I did have a couple cars coming down pit road that were going slow when I left my pit stall that held me up a little bit, but we qualified good, so we had one of those stalls.
“it’s a joke that somebody can leave pit road and run that fast down pit road and then slam on the brakes. Kenseth drove by four cars and so did the No. 2 car when he left his pit stall. I just don’t understand it.”
Did Gordon make a valid point about the timing loops and did Keselowski literally steal the win Saturday night or are Gordon’s comments simply a disgruntled driver who led the most laps and came up short of victory?
More than once Saturday night Keselowski showed he had the car to contend for the win. After starting eighth, Keselowski was quickly able to charge to the top five before the first caution flag. He also spent much of the race in second place hunting Gordon who led a race high 206 laps.
While he may have gained a little advantage in the pits, Keselowski won his third race of the season fairly at times leading by nearly a second and a half.
Either way what happened with the timing loops Saturday night isn’t likely to happen again at Bristol. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said after the race that NASCAR was aware of the position of the loops and will install more to ensure the gray area that was evident Saturday night will be erased the next time NASCAR races at Bristol.
For more NASCAR News and NASCAR Commentary, follow me on Twitter and Facebook or visit CupScene.com.