There’s “No Fault” In “Protecting the Leader,” Right?!
At the end of the Sportsman 100 Atlantic Championships event at the CENTRE For Speed, three teams thought they would be holding the checkered flag as the winner.
Long story short, Chris Cormier and Aaron Boutilier were left disappointed, and Remi Gaudet was happily crowned a two-time consecutive Atlantic Champion.
For those that were not at the track, let’s set up the scenario. Remi Gaudet and Chris Cormier had been the class in the field in what had turned into a war of attrition behind them. On each restart, and there were plenty of them, the #22 and #61 cars would pull away and duel it out amongst themselves for the lead of the race. While Gaudet, who took the lead from Cormier on one of the restarts, appeared to be better on the shorter run, it was Cormier who laid the pressure heavy to the defending Atlantic Champion after a few laps of green flag racing.
Then came the late laps, and the 100th lap, which has or had left a lot confused, myself included.
Cormier had pressured Gaudet for a few laps under the green as they passed under the white flag of Tim Wile Jr. As they entered the first two turns for the final time, Cormier’s #61 car came in contact with Gaudet’s, which resulted in the #22 M&M Seafoods Chevrolet spinning into the infield. While no caution was displayed, the checkered flag flew, with the #61 crossing the line first ahead of Aaron Boutilier and Josh Collins.
Now, call it what you want. I’ve heard Gaudet let out of the throttle, I’ve heard he brake checked the #61, I’ve heard Gaudet got loose. Whatever story you believe, or whatever excuse you can make or pull out of the book, the one point that remains the same is that the #61 touched the #22 before the #22 spun, nobody is seemingly denying that fact.
Keeping in mind that the whole event had been run under the “no fault” rule, which was made very clear in the drivers meetings on both ends of the weekend. Under this situation, who won the race?!
If it’s a no fault incident, regardless if the caution came out or not, one would think the third place driver at the time of the incident, Aaron Boutilier, who crossed the line second behind Cormier’s #61, would have won the race. Regardless of “fault,” the contact between the #61 and #22 would have sent both to the end of the lap, meaning Boutilier, Collins and Shannon Squires would have been the top three in the race.
Most race fans I talked to thought this would be the outcome, with Boutilier holding the checkered flag.
But wait, there’s more.
The track has had a longstanding “protect the leader” rule that most did not know about, myself included.
What the blue heck in that, you may ask? It is exactly as it sounds. If the leader is spun out on the last lap of the race, he or she automatically gets to take the checkered flag and the driver who spun them out is disqualified. Again, it goes back to the undeniable fact that the Cormier car made contact with the one driven by Gaudet. Unavoidable or not, the contact happened.
That is what the officials at the CENTRE For Speed went with, and awarded the win to the spun car, Remi Gaudet. By that rule, the right call was made.
But why that rule?
Personally, I have only seen a variation of that rule used at one race track. Last February when we were covering the INEX Winter Nationals event at Auburndale Speedway, on a couple of instances during the five day event, the leader of the race was spun on the first lap of a restart which drew a caution. In those scenarios, both drivers got their spots back.
No race track in the region currently, from my knowledge of their rulebooks and seeing a lot of racing this year, has used that rule. Back in the day, one series in the region had used it, but has changed that seasons ago.
I had never seen it used like it was on the last lap of the race Saturday, and many were with me. In a little informal poll of some of the spotters who had gathered for the Pro Stock race, we had discussed the rule as the Atlantic Modifieds were on the track running their feature. Not one had seen it used before and the outcome had them scratching their heads like many others in the pits.
One of the spotters even brought up this point – let’s say the leader in the Pro Stock race on the last lap let the second place guy look on the inside and completely chopped him off. That “protect the leader” rule would have given the leader at that time the win either way, regardless of fault, right?!
There’s the other side of it too, outside of no fault and protect the leader. If you dump the leader on the last lap, regardless what the purpose or lack there of, if the second place guy gets into the leader, does he deserve the checkered flag? Honestly, I don’t see how you can give him the flag, regardless if he crossed the line first or thirty first.
Subsequently, if the leader spins, should he receive the checkered flag? I’ve never seen it, but according to the rule, that is what is called for and according to the rule, the right call was made.
Can you see where all three teams have a legitimate beef with the rule?
Either way, when a situation like this arises, someones feelings are going to be hurt. Someone is going to complain. At the end of the day, there will be at least one team that is happy, and that team is Remi Gaudet’s.
In closing, do I understand the call? Absolutely. Do I necessarily agree with it? Does it matter? If it is in the procedure book, which I’ve been told is available at the track, then it is what it is. But I can also see the other side of it.
Congrats to all teams who competed – and Remi Gaudet on the win!