- Associated Press - Sunday, April 29, 2012

RICHMOND — Not even a meeting with NASCAR officials helped Carl Edwards understand why he was given a penalty at Richmond International Raceway.

“We had to just agree to disagree, and that’s the way it is,” Edwards said.

In contrast, Tony Stewart knew exactly why he lost Saturday night’s race.

“We did everything we could to throw it away, it got taken away,” the defending Sprint Cup champion said.

Both drivers were less than pleased when they left Richmond, where late drama spiced up what had been yet another bland NASCAR race. There were just three cautions — one was a NASCAR-planned competition — through the first 310 laps and none had much impact on the race.

That changed when Jeff Burton smacked the wall, leaving behind debris that brought out the yellow with 89 laps remaining. It was Stewart and Edwards on the front row for the restart, and both believed they were the leader.

Edwards sailed away at the green flag, and was immediately penalized for jumping the restart and passing the leader before it was permitted.

What followed was a heated confrontation between crew chief Bob Osborne and the NASCAR official assigned to his pit stall, and a lengthy discussion on the team radio between Edwards and Osborne as they tried to figure out exactly what happened.

Edwards had been told by his spotter he was the leader, and the spotter said that information came from NASCAR. And the leaderboard backed it up, as Edwards was shown in first place. So when he was lined up on the outside of the track, Edwards said he figured NASCAR had made a mistake, and he made a split-second decision to try to get the best restart he could.

That part is not in dispute: replays clearly showed Edwards rocketed past Stewart and had cleared him before reaching the official restart zone.

And that’s against the rules, no matter who was leading the race.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to jumping the restart and that’s pretty straightforward,” Osborne said. “Our issue was the confusion about who was the leader and who wasn’t the leader.”

But why was Edwards being shown as the leader? The NASCAR vice president of competition said Edwards had tripped the timing and scoring when he crossed the line ahead of Stewart under caution while cleaning his tires.

“What you’ve got to understand is the electronics,” NASCAR official Robin Pemberton said. “When the transponder crosses the start/finish line — when Carl was scrubbing his tires, he beat [Stewart] to the line — so that instantaneously puts him up top.”

The penalty dropped Edwards to 15th, he briefly fell a lap down, and wound up finishing 10th. It was a disappointment considering Edwards led a race-high 206 laps.

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