Opinion: Did Kenseth Deserve Black Flag At Atlanta?

Is NASCAR going too far with these penalties they are handing out lately? Are they being too much of a big brother and making NASCAR a less kinder, gentler, fan friendly sport? Here is what happened at Atlanta:


During a pit stop, the 20 car was taking fuel and the gasman, while the fuel can was engaged, placed a wrench on the decklid of the car. He made no adjustments, and it was not his job to. All he did was placed a wrench on the rear decklid. No biggie for you and me, right?

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Under NASCAR rules, the gasman cannot do anything other than fuel the car when the gas can is attached. So when the gasman laid the wrench on Kenseth's car, the team broke the rules.

While Kenseth's crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, was pleading the team's case to officials, NASCAR waved the black flag at Kenseth and momentarily stopped scoring him. The 2003 Sprint Cup champion ultimately was penalized one lap for the pit infraction and another for ignoring the black flag. If you listen to the video above, Kenseth loses his cool when he was not informed that he had to pit, or that neither his crew chief or spotter Curtis Markham saw the back flag being waved at the 20 car.


"It's hard to blame it on anybody. You can't really see the flagstand in the sun, and I was riding around first, second and third and I had no idea we had any problems on pit road or there was a penalty. So I guess they were black-flagging us and I didn't know it. The spotter never said anything and Jason didn't tell me, so I didn't know anything about it. They said, 'Do a pass-through,' and they told me I was two laps down. So I don't really know what happened out here, to be honest with you."

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Kenseth's crew chief Jason Ratcliffe argued the case with NASCAR officials, and was not atop the box to see if Kenseth was shown the black flag or not. His spotter did not see it either. 

MK: "I'm gonna blow a gasket if we were black flagged for 5 laps and nobody knew enough to tell me to pit.."

JR: "We didn't tell you to pit because we were arguing the case"

MK: "That's fine Jason, but when you get the black and white flag they don't score you anymore until you come down pit road!"

JR: "Man I can't see the black and white flag if I'm down behind the pit box arguing the case!"


Prior to the penalty, Kenseth had led three times for a total of 47 laps out front. Once the smoke cleared from the two infractions, he returned to the track running outside the top 30. And he never recovered.

Kenseth finished Sunday's race 19th and even after the race was still unclear exactly how the mistakes had happened. But the bottom line was he couldn't do anything about the black flag he didn't see.

Ratcliff remained adamant that the team shouldn't have been penalized for the fueler taking a tool to and from the car, saying, "We've always done that. We've been doing that forever. But suddenly today it's a penalty."