Perception is not always reality. No more true than the finish of the Bennett Lane Winery 200 NASCAR Camping World Series West race Saturday afternoon at Infineon Raceway. High Drama.
Pole sitter PATRICK LONG/No.9 Ford crossed the finish line first to take the checkered flag in the 64-lap race, after hitting then front-runner, JOEY LOGANO/No.11 Toyota…and then was denied entry into Victory Circle.
Long’s bewildered teammate, JASON BOWLES/No.6 Ford was ushered into Victory Circle after thinking he finished second.
BORIS SAID/No.57 Ford was brought to the Media Center to meet the press as third-place finisher.
The initial set of unofficial results soon came out showing current points leader ERIC HOLMES/No.20 as third place finisher and Said coming in fourth. Holmes continues as points leader, 16 points ahead of Bowles.
Logano was scored in seventeenth place, and Long in twenty-third.
I’m still trying to sort it all out.
There were four lead changes among five drivers. Pole sitter Long led the first 19 laps. MOSES SMITH/No.16 Toyota started eleventh, led a lap and finished twenty-ninth; JOHNNY BORNEMAN/No.8 Chevrolet led five laps; Logano led 38 laps – until the white flag lap, and ultimate winner Bowles was scored as leading the last lap.
Eight cautions for 17 laps took a bite out of the race which ran 2 hrs, 11 mins, 1 sec. Long’s pole speed was 91.891 mph – the average race speed was 58.325 mph. Twenty-three cars of 29 finishers were on the lead lap.
Long worked his way back up through the pack after his pit stop, moving into second. He chased leader Logano and made a banzai pass inside Turn Seven to take the lead…and then there was another melee in Turn Eleven. Long continued through to S-F and then a caution was thrown. NASCAR then put Logano back in front as NASCAR rules that scoring reverts back to the last green lap. When the green was thrown with three laps to go, Long again charged.
Long and Logano came together in Turn Eleven going for the checkered flag. They each tell a different story. Logano said “Look, I can understand if someone’s already inside you in a corner and then hits you. That’s racing. What I don’t understand is someone hitting you in the rear. That’s just cheating. He (Long) is a dirty, dirty racer.”
Long, running his first West race, said “I’m new at this sport, so I’m sort of learning what’s allowed and what’s not. There were a couple of things that didn’t fall our way and that was one of them. I don’t like to finish a race by getting into someone’s body, but it wasn’t on purpose that he spun out. I chatted the rear end and he decided to run the defensive line. When you defend like that and I locked the rear, there’s not much I can do, and I apologized for that. That’s not how I like to win.”
Bowles said “Actually the real winner here today is my teammate Patrick Long. I was just the beneficiary of some rough driving. We were in the right place at the right time at the end. I wish I could be a little bit happier about it, but I’ll take it.”
Comments from Team Owner BOB BRUNCATI could not be repeated. He was livid in Victory Circle.
There were so many questions after the race that NASCAR Director of Touring Series, RICHARD BUCK, was brought to the Media Center to answer questions.
Long being put back to twenty-third was his penalty for aggressive driving. Buck explained the usual penalty was a drive-through but as the race was over, Long was instead scored as the last car on the lead lap.
Buck’s explanation: “It’s so hard to deal with whats and iffs, there are so many of them. All we can do is judge them on what happened today and we considered that aggressive driving and that was the penalty we would have assessed had it happened earlier in the race.
All we can do is make a judgement call. We didn’t consider it blocking. Everyone takes the inner line there.” Regarding Long’s claim that he was blocked going into Turn Eleven. Buck said “I’d say that too.”
Regarding the alleged attempt by Logano to sideswipe Long’s car on the way past Victory Circle and brushing two of Long’s crew in the process, Buck said “Emotions run high. In this sport. It doesn’t surprise me, but I didn’t see it.” Both Long and Bowles said it happened. Logano denied. Buck said NASCAR officials would be interviewed and any decisions or penalties would be issued Tuesday with the official results.
The West Series next races over Fourth of July in Irwindale. Long plans to run the East Series next weekend at Loudon, as a companion race for the Lenox Industrials Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.