By admin | June 13, 2010
By Richard Allen
It seems pretty amazing that after so much has been written and said, jokes have been made and criticism has been levied that NASCAR continues the practice of the mysterious late race debris cautions to bunch the field for a final dash to the checkered flag. One would think that race officials would take a couple of weeks off just to allow the conspiracy theorists to lose some credibility.
However, in Sunday’s Heluva Good! 400 at the Michigan International Speedway an event as surprising as a hot July day in Texas occurred once again. Just after all the final round of green flag pit stops had been completed debris was ‘spotted’ on the back stretch of the 2 mile track and the yellow flag waved.
Last week in Pocono the late race caution did exactly what was intended, it produced a number of highlights for the various Sunday night sports shows. Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano got together on the track and later on pit road with Logano’s father and Harvick’s wife eventually playing roles in the conflict both directly and indirectly.
And, A.J. Allmendinger aggressively blocked Kasey Kahne which sent Kahne sideways up in front of about half the field. After the crashing was over on the track Kahne did little to spare the feelings of his teammate in the garage area.
Those are the kind of things that get NASCAR air time on SportsCenter when it has to go up against other sports.
This week, however, Logano and Harvick did not have any meetings. No cars were sent sliding in front of the pack to create those slow motion impact shots of metal being ripped away. No real wars of words occurred.
Instead, Denny Hamlin just did what he had done for much of the day. He drove away from the field as he cruised to a comfortable win.
In victory lane Hamlin let NASCAR’s cat out of the bag. “I knew a caution was coming, so I might as well back off and save my tires,” he said. “I knew that debris caution was coming. We’ve got to do what’s right for the fans, and they need to see a great race at the end. The best car won — and that’s all you can ask for.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Hamlin added still more later. “No, I didn’t see any debris, if that’s what you’re asking,” he declared. “I mean, we typically get them every single week. I’m not going to say it’s accepted, but what can you do?
“I’m all for some of these cautions,” Hamlin went on. “You know, if I don’t win the race because maybe I get a bad restart or something, then probably I’m angry because I feel like NASCAR changed the outcome of the race.
“But, you know, we did everything. It was still on me to do my job to win the race. I feel like I got a good restart, got clear of those guys. You know, I understand this is show business.”
Show business, huh? Aren’t most things in show business scripted? The purpose in sport, or at least the stated purpose, is to determine a legitimate winner. So much for legitimacy.
To be fair, Kasey Kahne, who was running second at the time of the caution, said he did see debris. It is also fair to point out that the driver with the big lead has reason to say there is no debris while the trailing driver has reason to see debris everywhere he looks.
And perhaps one other point that might cause some to doubt Hamlin’s ability to spot debris on the track. When he got out of the car he thanked the fans and claimed this was one of the biggest crowds he had seen at Michigan. His eyesight must be failing.
All in all, in a week in which much of the sports world will be focused on the World Cup, college conference realignment and the NBA playoffs, the desired result of the late race caution did not materialize, whether there was any debris on the track or not.
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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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