Ryan Preece found himself at the front of the field when the caution flag waved during the final lap of Saturday's NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway. In most circumstances, Preece would've been celebrating in victory lane shortly after the yellow flag waved. But he wasn't. Instead, he was left fuming as NASCAR black flagged him for jumping the final restart of the race and scored him as the last car on the lead lap.
In an interview with Sirius XM's Claire B. Lang after the race, Preece made it clear that he didn't agree with the call made by NASCAR officials. Since that time, many racing enthusiasts and fellow drivers have shared their opinion on the much-discussed restart.
Appearing on Speed51's "The Morning Bullring" talk show Monday morning, defending NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Thorn shared his opinion on the restart. Although he didn't necessarily take one side of the debate, Thorn did indicate that he wasn't surprised to see a penalty given to Preece, based on how the series has policed restarts recently.
"I saw the replay of it. I didn't get to see it in person but I saw the replay of it. I couldn't tell (if he jumped the start)," Thorn said. "The camera angle that I saw the green flag was out when he took off. But from my experience last year with the K&N West Series, they're just black and white. I'm sure the officials had a good view of the restart zone. I'm assuming there's a go, no-go zone. I saw it happen three or four time last year. If there's a position on that track and them guys go a car length or half-a-car length too soon, they've got no problem pulling the black flag out, and at least they're consistent.
"They did the same to Noah Gragson earlier in the race when he did the same thing. It's only right to do the same thing to Preece if he did the same thing. I don't think it's right, I don't agree with it but at least they're staying consistent with it. Last year in the K&N Series if I was leading the race and going to restart, I would make sure I was well within the box before I took off. I got nabbed or saw a couple guys get nabbed for very small, small little windows where there's a gray area. Now I think NASCAR is trying to get rid of that grey area and go straight black and white."
Following Thorn's appearance on the show, show host Bob Dillner -- a former racer and team owner himself -- shared his opinion of the incident.
"I understand the box rule if they had one in effect. I think sometimes, and I wasn't there, but sometimes they say once the front row gets out of that little corner and you get straight, you go. Listen, the spotters are watching that green flag. Green means go. Ryan Preece stood on the throttle pedal when the green came out. Therefore, I think he was in the right."
NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael McDowell also chimed in on the incident via his Twitter account, sharing his belief that the call to penalize Preece was wrong.
"Then no way there should be a penalty," McDowell said in a response to NASCAR journalist Jeff Gluck. "Second place was sleeping and Ryan Preece didn't go early. How is that a penalty? Also he didn't change lanes until well beyond the start-finish line."
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Tommy Joe Martins also disagreed with the call.
"Wait what? The flag man was already moving when he took off," Martin said on Twitter.
Noah Gragson, the official winner of the race following Preece's penalty, didn't share his opinion on the restart in question but was quick to remind people that he was penalized for a similar restart earlier in the race.
"I had the same penalty halfway through the race," Gragson said in a response to a fan. "Did you even watch it? Do your homework next time."
In addition to the commentary from racers, hundreds of fans chimed in with their opinion on the call. A poll conducted by Speed51.com Monday morning on Twitter showed that 87% of fans believe Preece shouldn't have been penalized, while only 13% agreed with the penalty.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: FansChoice.TV