NASCAR admits to making huge mistake at Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen International, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Watkins Glen International, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR made a huge mistake in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International, one which may have cost Parker Kligerman the win.

Following a third place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International, Big Machine Racing’s Parker Kligerman finds himself as the top driver below the playoff cut line.

There are three races remaining on the regular season schedule at Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway, and Kansas Speedway.

The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet finds himself sitting in 13th place in the playoff picture and 11th in the point standings, with the cut line currently sitting between the 10th and 11th place drivers. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst currently occupies the final playoff spot, and he sits just three points ahead of Kligerman.

But things might look quite a bit different had NASCAR gotten the final restarting order right in Saturday’s race.

Kligerman restarted overtime in ninth place and made his way up to third by the time the checkered flag flew, yet the driver with whom he made contact during the incident which prompted the final restart, JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry, restarted in fifth.

He couldn’t understand it.

"“Why we restarted ninth I have no idea. We’ve got to talk to NASCAR and somebody has got to explain this to me because I’m pretty sure the car that hit me in the wreck was (Berry), who then starts fifth. I get sent to ninth. If we start fifth, we win this race. That’s really disappointing.”"

The restarting position of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sammy Smith was also affected. He was the eighth driver to choose his lane for the overtime restart. Berry was the fifth to choose, while Kligerman was the ninth. Smith and Berry finished in 18th and 20th place, respectively.

The mix-up ultimately came down to the position of the scoring loop entering the carousel, where the incident occurred. The carousel is turn five of the eight-turn, 2.454-mile (3.949-kilometer) Watkins Glen, New York road course.

Here is what NASCAR had to say about the matter, according to NBC Sports.

"“At the time of caution, (Berry’s) transponder did not hit the loop (he was part in the grass, part on the rumble strip), so it did not register a freeze position. … The lineup reverts to the previous loop at the time of caution. Where we erred was positioning (Berry’s car) in its position at the time of caution versus its position at the previous loop. That affected (Kligerman’s) and (Smith’s) position.”"

NASCAR admitted that it was ultimately their fault for not getting this one right, but the incident has reignited the debate over what should determine the correct position of each driver at the time of a caution.

"“Our goal is to get back to green as soon as possible. There are no timeouts in NASCAR, so we need to move quickly to give fans as many green flag laps as possible. In this instance, we should have taken the extra step and, potentially, the extra lap to ensure the correct lineup.”"

It’s kind of a strange statement, considering the fact that “as soon as possible” sometimes translates to unnecessarily long multi-lap stage breaks when there hasn’t even been an incident. But that’s a topic for another day.

Still, NASCAR at least deserves some credit for coming clean and taking the blame. But unfortunately, honest responses after the fact don’t help Kligerman’s case for his first career playoff berth.

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All remaining NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season action and playoff action on the 2023 schedule is set to be shown live on either NBC or USA Network, so begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!