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Late race caution fails to produce the desired result

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.

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

12 Responses to “Late race caution fails to produce the desired result”

  1. Racertainment Says:
    June 13th, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    WTF? NASCRAP is total garbage now. It will never be taken seriously in the sports world with bogus crap like this going on. No wonder it’s popularity is in free fall. The chase, phantom cautions, the crappy new car, Brian France, wreck inducing “shootout style” restarts, cookie cutter tracks, constant rule changes, super teams, and a whole lot more stuff I can’t be bothered to type out are the reasons people laugh at this “sport”. I used to love it when it was pure, real racing, but now I only follow it here and there to watch it die. The ratings and attendance don’t lie. Great site Rich, you tell it like it is. I bet the Bigshots at Daytona beach hate you.

  2. Bill B Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 10:15 am

    For years NASCAR has been compared to wrestling and fans have defended NASCAR loyally. Well, I can’t defend it anymore, if NASCAR is dead set on making calls that script an exciting ending then they have become wrestling.
    Forget about what the drivers said…. WHY WASN’T THE DEBRIS SHOWN BY TNT???

  3. snowman Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Michael Waltrip let the cat out of the bag last night on his twitter account. He said that Nascar calls “time-outs” and that nothing is wrong with that. If that is true, at least one fan is gone.

  4. JR Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’m sure Denny will get a visit from the “powers that be” to remind him that NASCAR does not need him, he needs NASCAR. But guess what, it’s getting harder to just follow the company line and collect your paycheck. The current management attempts to sell their soul in an attempt to revive a dying sport that got sick because they were selling their sole for a few more fan dollars. The downward spiral continues. I for one, will be glad when it hits bottom because only then can the rebuilding begin. Having been involved with the sport of stock car racing for over 40 years, I hate what it has become. What was once a sport is now just a piece of pre-packaged entertainment designed to appeal to anyone with a dollar to spend. The athletes involved are not to blame. They are being paid millions and are somewhat forced to “go along” with the show. If I were one of them, I’m sure I would keep my mouth shut and collect my money as well. We live in a world that is all about the dollar and so we get what we deserve.

  5. JerseyGirl Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    “show business”, gee, I thought I was watching a race. I’ve thought for a while that NASCAR was deliberately manipulating the finishes of races - starting with their wonderful idea of multiple attempts at the green - white - wreckers. Awesome, now instead of a team that has worked hard all day to get position instead can get screwed out of a win or better yet, wrecked for the highlights.

    I’ve defended watching “cars go in circles” for years. I guess I’m the dumb one here because if this is what NASCAR is all about at this point, it really is stupid.

    Fixing the races, imagine that, makes the sport real legitimate.

  6. Richard Witherell Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Only one real problem with Nascar, Brian France.Comparing him to his father is like comparing Jr to Sr.

  7. Rick Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    If Nascar would have a “halftime” in a race then these cautions would not be needed. If teams were allowed to work on their car for 15 minutes it would help the ones a little off get better and make the last half of the race more enjoyable to watch. The halftime would give TV a chance to talk to the drivers, owner, pit crew. It would give the drivers a break and the racing would be so much better at the end. It’s a win for Nascar.
    I just want people to think about the Allstar race. They let them work on the cars and the last segment is a blast to watch.

  8. midasmicah Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Don’t people realize what nas$car is doing. It’s no longer the sport it once was. It’s entertainment that ranks (pretty rank at that) right up there with big time wrestling. They’re not even subtle about it. Hamlin was just saying what everybody knows right now. For a diehard racing fan this is atrocious. This week they didn’t get their desired affect. No big wrecks lon the restarts and no green-white checkers. I’ve been on the edge for a while now as far as losing interest in the sport. I keep hoping things will change, but I’m not holding my breath

  9. JR Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    In support of my earlier comment about NASCAR trying to “appeal to anyone with a dollar to spend”, I offer Rick (comment #7) as an example.

  10. Glen H. Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Anyone want to bet the Denny has problems during inspection next week? NA$CAR just can’t have drivers saying those kinds of things without some kind of punishment being handed out.

    Heck, with talk like that people might start to figure out that the racing is rigged. Oh wait a minute, people are already starting to figure that out as shown be the dropping attendance and ratings….

  11. Richard in N.C. Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    There either was or there wasn’t debris when the caution was thrown at the end of the race, which is not rocket science. One would think that the facts would be relevant, but I guess facts are no longer relevant in what passes for journalism today. Of course NASCAR is the party responsible for trying to protect the safety of the people at the track, while the media is only responsible for coming up with a basis to criticize NASCAR to try to attract readers.

  12. The Mad Man Says:
    June 15th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I have no problems with genuine cautions. Safety is paramount. But when you have what are supposed to be professional drivers saying it’s show business, you have to wonder. I’ve seen phony cautions before, live at the track. None more blatant than the rain in Turn 2 at Charlotte when there was no rain. At Atlanta when not a single track truck moved to pick up the debris. So fans do have cause to be upset. When you hear over the scanner that a caution is coming out and it does, you have to wonder. All it would’ve taken is one shot from the TV camera to remove all doubt. But even that didn’t happen.

    Luckily with the media being distracted by World Cup, F1 racing, and other sports, maybe there won’t be any damage from the media. However, you can bet that tickets sales and TV ratings will take a plunge from antone who watched the race and caught the comments.