It was a great weekend of racing at Auto Club Speedway that will always be remembered for the remarkable, yet bizarre finish to the TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway. It has left NASCAR with some explaining to do.
In the closing stages of the event, it seemed like a usual NASCAR XFINITY Series race. Kyle Busch was leading by over 3 seconds and completely dominating the race. What wasn’t usual was the fact that gas mileage came into play and it threw a curveball to the entire field. Busch began to slow drastically, trying to conserve fuel. He was still leading when the white flag flew, virtually locking up his 80th career victory in the series.
That all changed when heading into turn one Busch blew a right front tire, blowing debris all over the racetrack and causing an unsafe racetrack for the field. One would think Busch’s misfortune would cause the race to go under a caution period, after-all; NASCAR has thrown caution flags for a lot less in the past.
Instead the race stayed green with Busch diving to the inside of the track as teammate Daniel Suarez drove on by. Suarez would have his own issues, running out of gas on the backstretch while Busch reassumed the lead. Busch would continue to lead with a flat left-front tire until Austin Dillon caught him and passed him in turn four. Dillon went on to win the race while Busch, who finished second, was not happy with the fact that there was no caution flag and his quote at the end of the race proved it.
“Debris all over the racetrack, and they don’t throw a yellow. I’m so pleased with you NASCAR. Thanks. You all are awesome. Fixing races,” the Las Vegas native said over his in-car radio.
While one can argue Busch’s comments were over the line you can’t help but understand his frustration with the situation. Busch has dominated the XFINITY Series in recent years and has been on the other end of countless debris cautions that have been thrown for nothing more than a water bottle on the bottom of the racetrack. NASCAR’s reasoning for throwing those cautions has been that they have to look out for driver’s safety, a very reasonable explanation. However, it is very obvious when Busch’s tire exploded on the racetrack Saturday there was sheet metal and tire debris all over, which is much more likely to cause harm to a driver than a simple water bottle on the racetrack.
I understand NASCAR wants to do everything possible to have the race finish under green flag conditions. A lot of fans hate it when a race ends via a caution flag and there is certainly a lack of excitement when that happens. However, the biggest problems with the situation are the facts that they put the drivers’ safety at risk and there is a grey area when it comes to caution flags.
Also what is overlooked in the situation is that if the caution was thrown, Busch would have won the race, even though he brought out the caution. Under the current rules as long as Busch made it to the start-finish line under caution speed he would still be the winner. That sounds crazy to some people which is why NASCAR needs to come up with a clean-cut rule about the final lap. There is no doubt the debris Kyle Busch spewed down the back straightaway put drivers in danger of blowing a tire and wrecking hard. A rule stating that
So I ask, if they don’t throw a caution flag for a large amount of debris on the backstretch when will NASCAR throw a caution on the final lap. NASCAR’s Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell did his weekly interview on Monday with The Morning Drive on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. When asked about whether or not a penalty should have been thrown O’Donnell said “If we can finish under green, we’re going to make every effort to do that. If we have to react to a driver being in a racecar we’ll throw a caution.”
Obviously O’Donnell’s comments show that it’s a judgement call for NASCAR, but I ask. If they don’t throw a debris caution for that, will they throw one at all on the final lap? Is driver’s safety valued more with 40 laps to go than it is with one lap to go? If it’s not necessary to throw a caution for debris when it’s blatantly obvious there is debris, then why do we have debris cautions at all?All in all, Saturday’s race still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. NASCAR has some explaining to do.