Saturday, October 16, 2021

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OPINION: Thoughts Left to Ponder Following Auto Club 400

Even being a couple days removed from the completion of the Auto Club 400, there are still some thoughts that I am left pondering based on what happened. So with that, let’s see what each of those thoughts are.


Debris Cautions

In the span of the last 50 laps of the race, there were a total of four debris cautions – 47 laps to go, 16 laps to go, two laps to go and the first attempt at the Green-White-Checkered. Only in one of those instances was the debris shown – Kyle Larson’s back bumper on the first GWC attempt after he got into the wall. However, on each of the other attempts, no debris was shown. Call the black helicopters immediately!

Though while it was something that wasn’t noticed by fans and the tv cameras, NASCAR stands by their statement that the debris was noticed.

“We got multiple reports over the radio and confirmed there was a piece of material, something, in the racing groove,” Sprint Cup Series Director Richard Buck said on the caution with two laps to go. “So we went ahead and called the caution.  By the time we called the caution, somebody hit it. I don’t have it back yet, I don’t have the piece back yet.  But we always ask the safety and cleanup crews to return that stuff.  But there were multiple reports.”

There are also drivers that reported seeing the debris, as well.

Integrity is something that is very important. We’ve seen it with the new pit road rules in making sure to show replays to showcase the penalties that drivers are assessed on pit road. It’s why we have replays of wrecks to determine just exactly what happened. Now TV needs to step it up and make it happen when it comes to debris, or else we may see a dwindling of fans due to thinking of conspiracy theories.


To Race To The Flag Or Not

With the white flag in the air as the leaders were in turns one and two, Greg Biffle would wreck on the frontstretch. Rather than throwing the caution for the incident, NASCAR let the race continue, with Biffle moving before the field returned to the frontstretch. Addressing the media afterwards, Buck says the patience in throwing the caution is a result of NASCAR always using the most effort possible to have the race end under green.

“I mean, safety is number one.  We always make our best effort to let it race back,” he said. “We had well over a mile.  The leaders were coming off of two.  We have multiple people in the tower watching multiple things.  We’re all communicating very quickly and at a high level.

“We could see the cars coming off of two.  We were watching the frontstretch.  Biffle got it started back up, got it turned around and headed off.  We have two folks in the flag stand that were right there on top of it, so we had a bird’s eye view from their perspective that there was no debris there and we could let it come back and come back to a natural finish.”

While they were able to race back to the flag this weekend, they weren’t allowed earlier this year at Daytona International Speedway. A wreck happened on the backstretch, behind the leaders, on the white flag and NASCAR immediately threw the caution.

So why did they throw it there and not here? “Safety is number one” is the key to that. There were drivers that wrecked really hard at Daytona – what if one of them was injured? The safety crew is not allowed to dispatch to the scene till the caution flag is displayed. That was why teh caution was displayed in allowing safety officials to immediately tend to drivers. In contrast, no driver was injured as while Biffle made contact the wall, it wasn’t injury endangering and he was able to get going.


Uncontrolled Tire

Joey Logano would suffer a penalty late in the race, that essentially turned a chance to win the race and finish in the top-five into a finish in seventh. The penalty – uncontrollable tire. Upon looking at the review, the pit crew member did let the tire go for a bit – but it never left the box and rolled in control back to the pit wall. Was the penalty fair?

Hamlin also got caught by the same penalty, finishing 28th. His replay, though, showed the tire leaving the pit box just a bit. However, it was a penalty that was argued by crew chief Dave Rogers.

“In years past, that would be a common sense rule and the tie goes to the runner,” Rogers said. “That’s what NASCAR emphasized this off-season when we expressed our concerns over this system – black or white, ball or strike type of a deal. NASCAR assured us that they would use common sense and things wouldn’t change and I can certainly tell you that last year that wouldn’t have been called so that’s a frustration. I don’t know if it’s me getting used to a new system or NASCAR pushing harder for the ball or strike and the tie is not going to go to the runner.”

Perhaps NASCAR needs to look at their calls and see what’s going on as based on Rogers comments and Logano’s situation, NASCAR may be dealing a hand of control that is a little too strong.

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