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Finishes can be exciting without ‘debris’ cautions

By admin | November 8, 2009

By Richard Allen

Finishes do not have to contrived, Made-for-Sportscenter dashes to the checkered flag created by phony ‘debris’ cautions to be exciting.

Sunday’s Dickies 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway showed that. The end of that race proved to be a nail biter as some cars made it to the end on the fuel they had in the tank while others pitted with around 20 laps to go and were in the process of making a furious charge from behind as the laps ran down.

Kurt Busch had just enough fumes in his tank to get him to the finish line while his brother, Kyle, did not. Aside from those two drivers there were others who had either short-pitted for tires, gas or both and were in the midst of a foot to the floor scramble as others were nursing almost empty fuel tanks in hopes of squeezing every drop through their thirsty engines.

Rather than throw the usually predictable late race yellow, NASCAR let the race play out under its own merits and it proved to be an attention getter. The finish was intense and exciting because it was real rather than contrived. The field wasn’t artificially bunched with fresh tires and full fuel tanks.

Listening to in-car radios showed just how into the moment each team was. Kurt Busch’s crew was doing their best to keep the reigns on their driver and assuring him he would win by saving fuel. At the same time Matt Kenseth was certain he had the race won by being the leader among the drivers to have pitted for fuel and tires. The strategies being played was fun to listen to.

Another thing the in-car audio showed was that the teams have become conditioned to the way finishes are usually played out. One crew chief was reluctant to bring his driver onto pit road because he feared getting caught a lap down when the inevitable ‘debris’ caution flew.

Fortunately, that caution never came and fans were rewarded with an interesting dash, or coast, to the checkered flag. Hopefully, NASCAR will take note.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

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