By admin | February 6, 2010
By Richard Allen
Everything seemed to be going so well for NASCAR on Saturday.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the sportâ€™s most popular driver, looked to take the first step toward a comeback by qualifying on the outside of the front row for next weekendâ€™s Daytona 500. After a disastrous 2009, NASCAR needs its top fan favorite to recover and contend for race wins and championships. Last year was a nightmare as he did neither. A strong qualifying run gave his fans something to be excited about, which is good for the sport.
After Daytona 500 qualifying, NASCAR had another good thing to happen. Even though it was in an ARCA Series race, one of the sanctioning bodyâ€™s rising stars had a good day. Danica Patrick made her much anticipated stock car debut(or NASCAR debut as one ESPN radio sportscaster called it). She raced well, made a nice save and scored a top-10 finish. Such a run bodes well for her Nationwide Series future, possibly beginning next Saturday in Daytona.
After the earlier happenings came the main event at the Daytona International Speedway. The Budweiser Shootout, a traditional preliminary event leading up to the â€˜Great American Raceâ€™, rolled off under the lights. The racing was tight and exciting, especially in the final 50 lap segment. And, there were no significant bump drafting incidents until the closing laps.
However, it is those last laps that come into question. Jeff Gordon appeared to get into Greg Biffle going into turn 3, possibly because of a flat tire, which caused the #16 Ford to spin and collect a number of other cars. The race was called when the caution came out and Kevin Harvick was declared the winner.
Here is the problem I have with the way the race ended. Whenever a caution comes out with more than two laps to go NASCAR seems to always run the laps down to two to go and then say this is the one shot at a green/white/checkered finish.
To me, that violates the spirit of the g/w/c rule. In my opinion, if the track is cleared with two laps or more to go, that is not the time for a g/w/c finish. If the track is cleared by the time of two to go then that should just be a normal restart. Then, if something happens before the cars get back to the white flag there should be a g/w/c finish.
Besides calling a g/w/c finish at the wrong time, there was a question as to whether or not this particular race was supposed to finish under green no matter how many tries it took. Even Harvick said after the race that he thought the race had to end under green. One circulating story cited an obscure note in the television contract that said the race was to finish as soon as possible in the event the race had extended beyond 10:00pm eastern time. Hopefully, that story was incorrect and NASCAR is not in the business of cheating paying fans out of a green flag finish so local Fox affiliates can show an â€˜Everybody Loves Raymondâ€™ rerun leading into the local news.
Notice from here on at how many times the track appears ready for racing after a late caution but the laps are run down to two to go and then a green/white/checkered finish is called for.
The green/white/checkered rule is a good one. NASCAR should go out of their way to make sure it is used as it ought to be instead of the way that is convenient for the television networks.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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