By admin | April 22, 2012
By Richard Allen
If this were a medical themed website there would be good news to report in that cases of yellow fever have been greatly reduced in 2012. However, this is not a medical website but the fact remains that yellow fever, or caution flags, has been all but eradicated from NASCAR races. And since this isn’t a report for a medical journal, the reduction of yellow fever isn’t necessarily a good thing in racing.
So far this season there have been a total of 43 cautions in eight Sprint Cup races. By comparison, there had been 67 yellow flags after the season’s first eight events in 2011.
What could possibly be the reason for such a drastic downturn in the number of cautions?
Actually, there could be several factors contributing to fewer cautions this season. For one thing, last year’s close points battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards might have taught drivers the lesson that under the new system instituted by NASCAR during the 2010-2011 off season that each individual point is greatly magnified in importance. As a result, drivers may be less likely than ever before to take any risks that could cause them to lose championship points for fear of missing the Chase for the Championship or losing a title.
It could be that the new system has taken points racing to a whole new level?
And more, the current combination of the Car of Tomorrow and Goodyear tires that show little wear on most tracks make for very stable race cars that rarely slip and slide. Add to that, the recent repaving jobs at Daytona and Phoenix have made those tracks very smooth, and again, very stable.
I’m not saying that driving a car at such high speeds is easy but I am saying that the skill level of NASCAR drivers combined with a car that handles very well creates a situation in which fewer incidents are going to occur.
But another thought came to mind prior to Sunday’s STP 400 at the Kansas Speedway. During the Fox pre-race show, analyst Darrell Waltrip stated that there have been drivers to tell him they are more mindful of staying out of controversial situations this year because they don’t want to put their sponsors and teams through those kinds of situations.
I know it’s convenient to blame brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch for most everything that goes askew in NASCAR but could it be that other drivers saw what happened to these two lightning rods last season and want to avoid the same?
Near the end of 2011, Kyle Busch was benched for a weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway after he intentionally crashed Ron Hornaday in a truck race after a caution had already been thrown. It was widely reported that Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor M&M’s was very much displeased. The candy company did pull its name from the #18 car for the final two races of the season to make its point.
Also, Kurt Busch eventually lost his ride at Penske Racing after he was caught on tape delivering an obscene tongue lashing to an ESPN camera crew in the garage area at the Miami-Homestead Speedway. Again, sponsor pressure from Shell was said to have played a major role in the ‘mutual agreement’ to separate between Busch and Penske.
With sponsors no longer as plentiful as they were a few years ago when grandstands were full and television ratings were much higher, it could be that drivers are fearful of placing themselves at the center of any controversy that might land them in a situation like the Busch brothers found themselves in at the end last year.
So, could it be that fewer cautions are the result of drivers shying away from each other on the track in a sort of ‘Busch Effect’?
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