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No one should be surprised by criticism over Nationwide debris caution

By admin | September 2, 2012

By Richard Allen


In the interest of full disclosure, I will start off this column by saying that I did not watch Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. It would be considered a major no-no for a serious journalist to write about something not witnessed but since I didn’t go to journalism school, I guess I’m allowed to break the rules. Besides, there are only a very few of those ‘true journalists’ covering NASCAR whose opinion I care about anyway.

That said, no one should be surprised by the fact that there was a controversy over a late race debris caution in the previously mentioned Nationwide event. With Kevin Harvick dominating, a yellow flag waved on lap 184 of the scheduled 195 lap distance. This served to tighten the field and ultimately, after another caution for a crash, allowed Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. to catch and pass Harvick for the win.

Harvick immediately confronted fellow Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski on pit road after the race believing that a water bottle thrown from Keselowski’s car was the reason for the caution.

Keselwoski did say that he threw a water bottle out of his car but added that, “Everybody in the garage throws water bottles and tear offs off the nose and NASCAR doesn’t throw cautions for that.”

Obviously, Harvick felt as though the caution gave the other drivers a chance they would not have had otherwise and was willing to point the finger of blame. In his post-race television interview, the frustrated driver accused Keselowski of intentionally causing a caution. He also went on to declare that NASCAR uses the yellow flag to artificially create drama.

“Why did you guys keep showing it on the replay then?” Harvick replied when told by an ESPN reporter that the caution was not called for a water bottle. “The caution came out when the water bottle came out the window. They can say what they want. They throw cautions when they want to. Tonight they threw it and they got what they wanted.”

I didn’t have to see the race to know what the problem is. Whether fair or not, NASCAR has over the years developed a reputation of having “well timed” cautions that help bring about close finishes and sports highlight show replay material.

Harvick’s criticism is nothing new. It has been repeated on multiple occasions by multiple drivers.

NASCAR countered the complaint by producing a photograph of a safety worker picking up a piece of metal during the caution period in question to show that the yellow was not thrown for a water bottle. But in the end, the damage had already been done. Many of those who saw the post-race interviews now believe that a caution came out for a water bottle thrown out the window of Brad Keselowski’s car.

And that brings me to a second point. Not only has NASCAR contributed to its own woes in this matter by how often mysterious cautions are thrown, but their television partners do not help them either.

When in 2001 NASCAR accepted the huge money that came with a new TV deal, they also got the influence of their partner networks. What’s more, they got partners whose profits are driven by ratings. And controversy sells much better than simply telling the story.

ESPN didn’t have to even say that the caution was caused by a water bottle. Simply showing the bottle was enough to stir drama. Apparently the bottle was shown enough for Harvick to see it on a big screen from inside his car as he cruised around under caution.

It is ESPN’s job to look after the best interests of ESPN, not necessarily the best interests of NASCAR. If controversy can boost the ratings or provide an intriguing highlight for SportsCenter, then that may be what is conveyed.

Bottom line, it would have been a bigger surprise if there had not been a controversy regarding that late race caution in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. NASCAR has a reputation and the TV networks have ratings to achieve. Those two factors came together in Atlanta.

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11 Responses to “No one should be surprised by criticism over Nationwide debris caution”

  1. offkilter Says:
    September 2nd, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I think nascar got what they wanted. They don’t like it when someone stinks up the show like harvick did last night. I can’t remember the last time i seen a car that dominant on a superspeedway. I think that car is destined back to nascar’s r&d facility also. Sometimes a bad fast car just aint enough.

  2. Gene Says:
    September 2nd, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I think the bigger story is what a sore loser and drama queen Harvick is. He really needs to grow up.

  3. Russ Says:
    September 2nd, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    A lot of people dont care that WWE is staged either.

  4. Tony Geinzer Says:
    September 3rd, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Harvick is a circus clown, Brad K can ride on his high horse all he cares to, but, ESPN is only out for ESPN! I really would prefer better unstaged racing for NASCAR as we got too many clowns and villians. I know Kyle Petty tries to channel his inner David Poole, but, we have too many Krusty the Klown Look Alikes and no actual Krusty The Klowns. I think Kevin’s Hard Card should read Cup Only.

  5. dawg Says:
    September 4th, 2012 at 9:09 am

    This would seem to be a case of “Yellow” Journalism, on the part of the Network.

    ESPN, is a stick, & ball network, & is proving they either don’t know how to cover a race, (my money’s on this one) or just don’t car enough about the sport to do it right.

    I will have to say that Harvick wasn’t his usual obnoxious self when talking to Bad Brad, seems like Brad’s earning a good measure of respect.

  6. Lou B Says:
    September 4th, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Harvick is a punk Ricky Rudd should have rearranged his face in Richmond years ago , Like Rudd said he yaps like a little girl Harvick always acts tough when he has 10 crewmen around , just like Tony stewart throwing his helmet he was just as guilty as matt in that wreck and Matt is a very clean driver so why the drama Tony , I can’t stand most of these a#$ clowns who drive in todays Na$car all they do is whine like little kids . bring back the real men like the silver fox , cale , bobby allison ,

  7. jo-jr Says:
    September 4th, 2012 at 10:19 am

    harvick and stewart, both think, they are such tought guys, but both just mouth off, to get , in front of camera!most fans put them in the sack with kyle!!

  8. Bill B Says:
    September 4th, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Why is any driver allowed to throw anything out on the track? Unless there is something on fire in the car and the driver can throw it out the window, anything else being thrown out into the “field of play” should be at least an automatic 1 lap penalty. That would solve that problem.
    Why has it become OK to throw water bottles out the window?

  9. midasmicah Says:
    September 4th, 2012 at 11:50 am

    nas$car sold it’s soul to the devil more then a decade ago. In this case the devil was the big time tv networks and they are paying the price for it. Brain fart and mafia mike are just shills . They have no control over their sport now. Moving a lot of their races to some God awful tracks has cost them most of the once hardcore fan base. And the once fanatical fans are in turn, giving nas$car the one finger salute. nas$car has turned a thriving sport into a sterile shadow of it’s once proud sport. And the grim reaper continues it’s relentless advance on the clueless clowns in Daytona.

  10. dave Says:
    September 4th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    No surprises here. At the 20 to go mark of any Na$car race I happen to be watching, I fully expect a “debris” caution to come out at anytime between then and 10 to go. That is assuming green flag conditions, and particularly if one or a few cars are driving away from the field, or Junior is about to be lapped. Can’t have reality messing up Na$car’s mantra a “level playing field”, and besides “the fans want close finishes”.

    Earth to Na$car: real fans want real racing! Not some artificially contrived “close finish”!

  11. Jim Russell Says:
    September 4th, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Another great article, Rich. All those commenting seem to be in complete agreement. The Atlanta race also is a perfect example of how the “lucky dog” and the “wave around” rules have dramatically altered the racing. Take the 17 car and the 88 car for example. The 17 ran the entire race on the lead lap and almost entirely inside the top 10. The 88 ran almost the entire race mid pack, one or two laps down most of the time. Thanks to lucky dog and wave around “gifts” (designed specifically to accomplish what happened in Atlanta), the 88 car finishes two spots ahead of the 17 in the final running order. Fifteen years ago, the 88 would have finished 19th, two or three laps down. Instead, he jumped ahead of the 17 in the points standings. But it’s all for a good cause, right NASCAR? You have got to make the fans happy even if you have to sell the sport down the river. I’m glad I was a fan back when it was racing because it gets harder every week to remain a fan.