As a result of alleged miscommunication during Wednesday night’s rain-delayed NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bush’s Beans 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN), the Flamingo Motorsports team, which Timmy Solomito drives for, is now re-evaluating its future in motorsports, according to crew chief Sly Szaban. Solomito is currently fourth in the series standings.
Szaban told Speed51.com powered by JEGS on Saturday morning that his car owner, Eric Sanderson, is extremely frustrated with what transpired on Wednesday night regarding a ruling by NASCAR officials during the red flag period for rain.
According to Szaban, an official told Szaban and four other teams that they could repair their damaged race cars during the red flag period for rain on lap 55. Szaban said he was confused by that ruling, but took the officials word.
“You can’t work on your car under red and everyone knows that,” said Szaban. “We had a two-hour delay and we didn’t work on the car. Then officials came by and said we could work on the car. I specifically asked him, ‘We can work on the car right now? On our damaged part of the car?’ I did that to avoid any potential miscommunication. He said, ‘Yes.’ I asked him if he was sure and he said to go ahead. I asked three times and he said yes. So we started working on it and after 10 minutes they came by and said we’d be penalized for working on the car.”
Szaban said he then asked the official multiple times what the penalty would be, but was allegedly told that the official was unsure.
When the race went back to green flag conditions after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race had concluded, Szaban, Solomito and the rest of the team learned how severe the penalty would be.
“All of a sudden the race starts and they bring us down pit road and they hold us there,” Szaban recalled. “Timmy is sitting there on pit road revving the engine because once they go green we figured they’d let us roll behind the field. The race starts and one lap goes by, two laps, then three laps goes by and we ask our official what’s going on and then he shrugs his shoulders like he doesn’t know.
“We went back to green at lap 55 and got all the way to the halfway break at 75. Then they shorten the race to 100 laps. We’re still sitting in the pits wondering what the hell is going on, but we put gas in and service the car and we get ready to leave and they still hold us on pit road. They held us there for 25 laps. At this point there’s only 20 laps left in the race. So now the race is over and we’re obviously very upset.”
Solomito entered Wednesday night’s race third in points and still within striking distance of defending champion Doug Coby should Coby have slipped during the final few races. Now Solomito sits fourth, 49 points back of Coby who finished fifth.
“The one I feel the worst for is Timmy,” said Szaban. “Timmy doesn’t deserve this. He’s a great kid and he’s doing a great job for us. We’re third in points and we were still in the hunt to run for the championship and this basically takes us out of it. I’m not saying we were going to beat Doug, because Coby is really good and he’s got a great team and they’re going really well, but we still had a shot and this basically takes this away.”
Szaban said he spoke with NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series director Jimmy Wilson in the NASCAR trailer to try to understand why they were penalized so severely.
“He said I knew better than to work on the car. I said ‘Yes, I did know better than to work on the car. I know you can’t work on the car under red, but the official came by and told us we could work on the car.’ Yes, I did know better, but it isn’t my job to officiate the race. I figured that what the official said is what the ruling is.”
Wilson told Speed51 that there was a miscommunication between series officials and the teams during the red flag period.
“You’re in an environment with the truck race going on and all the noise, so I’m sure there was some miscommunication there somewhere as to the extent of what a team could do,” Wilson said. “But the bottom line is that at no time under no circumstances is a team allowed to work on a car under red. That cannot happen. The teams, when they ask, they already know that the answer is no. By those teams working on their cars under red, they got a significant competitive advantage that we cannot allow to take place relatively speaking to the other teams, so therefore we issued a penalty.”
Szaban said that a team meeting was held within Flamingo Motorsports on Friday evening. He’s now unsure what’s going to happen within the team as a result of that meeting.
“I told Eric that they didn’t single us out. Four other teams were also penalized, but he’s just very upset,” said Szaban.
He explained that he is unsure whether or not they will be loading up and heading to the series’ next race on August 27 at Riverhead Raceway. Solomito and Flamingo Motorsports won at Riverhead the last time the Tour was there in June.
“I don’t want to bash Jimmy Wilson,” said Szaban. “I don’t want to bash NASCAR. That’s not good for us, it’s not good for racing and it’s not good for anybody. I just want it to be known that we’re thinking of packing it in over what just happened, and people need to know if we don’t come back, why.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com