By admin | March 30, 2010
By Richard Allen
The final laps of the Goodyâ€™s Fast Pain Relief 500 in Martinsville provided some of the best action in recent NASCAR history. Denny Hamlinâ€™s three-wide slicing through the field along with the fender banging by Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon made for a memorable race. That type of action is exactly what NASCAR needs much more of.
However, with that said, one has to wonder whether some of that action should have even taken place at all.
As the cars raced toward the white flag, Kyle Busch got spun and smacked the wall in turn three. The caution flag flew just as leader Jeff Gordon was crossing under the flagmanâ€™s stand. If the #24 car actually crossed the line to take the white flag before the yellow flag waved the race would have ended as soon as he returned to the finish line once more.
â€œWe were within just a few feet of winning the race,â€ Gordon said in reference to the timing of the caution flag.
Of course, after the restart the action was intense as Kenseth and Gordon bumped and banged their way around the track all the while allowing Hamlin to get around both of them on his way to victory.
Here are some of the issues with the way the final laps played out. Was the final caution flag for Buschâ€™s spin thrown at the right time? Did television replays definitively show exactly where Gordon was on the track at the moment of the caution?
As far as the timing of the caution the real problem is with the consistency, or lack thereof, shown by NASCAR in these type situations. Remember back to the 2007 Daytona 500 when Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin raced to the finish line of â€˜The Great American Raceâ€™. As cars began to spin wildly coming out of turn four NASCAR held off on throwing the final yellow until after the leaders had crossed the line. That did allow for one of the most often used highlights in NASCAR promo clips.
But by holding the caution NASCAR opened a door to be criticized in future instances. Had the final caution been held for just an extra second or two Gordon would have crossed under the white flag and been declared the winner. In that 2007 race the sanctioning body set a precedent for holding cautions until after the eventual winner crossed the finish line.
So, which is it when an incident occurs as the leaders approach the line to end a race? Is NASCAR going to hold onto the yellow flag until the leaders have crossed the line as in the 2007 Daytona 500 or are they going to throw it quickly so as to not allow the leader to cross the line in an attempt to create green/white/checkered finishes?
And what of the television replays? Surely with all of the camera angles available in the coverage of a NASCAR race there was one that showed where Gordonâ€™s car was at the very moment the caution lights flashed on.
Gordon himself said he was within feet of being across the line so I guess that will have to do.
I am not saying NASCAR did anything wrong in their handling of the ending of the Goodyâ€™s 500. I am merely asking some questions because NASCAR has left it open for those questions to be asked with their past decisions.
I for one am very much in favor of exciting racing. I love the double file restarts and support the decision to use multiple green/white/checkered finishes. However, consistency is crucial. Without it, the accusations will always be there and conspiracy theorists will always have their ammunition to fire at NASCAR.
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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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