The Frontstretch: WARNING! Invisible Debris Is Hazardous To Your Health! by Amy Henderson -- Thursday March 1, 2007

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WARNING! Invisible Debris Is Hazardous To Your Health!

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday March 1, 2007


There is a danger lurking in the shadows at your local NASCAR track. It's more dangerous than a flipping, burning racecar. It's more insidious than a soaked tire. It's scarier than Jimmy Spencer in a Speedo. It's…Invisible Debris!

Yes, race fans, Invisible Debris is everywhere! It could be lurking in Turn One, ready to devour an innocent tire. It might be on the apron in Turn Four, waiting to jump into the racing groove and wreak havoc when we least expect. It could even be on a straightaway, biding its time, waiting to maim an innocent racecar. Obviously, NASCAR must take the road of caution when dealing with such a hideous beast. After all, it could strike at any moment, rendering a race "exciting" and "a close battle" on the track. Yes indeed, NASCAR had better be cautious with this hideous threat!

Yeah, right. And I have a really nice bridge for sale in a great neighborhood at an incredible price. A few years ago, when the yellow flag flew for a debris caution, there was actual debris on the race track, like a brake rotor or half a bumper. I know… that's amazing! Once upon a time, you could actually see debris!

But over the last three years, something has happened. Debris has apparently gained the remarkable ability to will itself invisible at any time, posing a threat to all who race across its path. Good thing we have NASCAR officials with super powers who can see the Invisible Debris and throw the yellow flag before it can strike.

Either that, or someone's bored. It isn't me. If you believe the scuttlebutt, it isn't most fans. It can't possibly be the drivers – they're busy! Maybe it's that Brian France, head of all that is NASCAR and supreme dictator to its minions. Maybe he really does have the attention span of a kindergardener.

The problem has been spiraling out of hand for the last three years or so. Since late 2005, it's been even worse; let someone work hard enough to have a great car and build up a lead of more than a second or so, and you can bet your socks the yellow flag will come out with NASCAR claiming debris. Some fans are claiming "conspiracy" when the debris caution is displayed when certain drivers are leading, or need a caution to have a shot at the win. I don't necessarily buy that. I think it's just that NASCAR is so afraid to lose one fair weather fan should a race be won by a large margin, they feel pressured to throw the yellow. Never mind, of course, that the margin the leader built up probably came from hours of preparation and the driver working his tail off in the car. According to the powers that be, that is now "boring" and what fans want to see (gotta love being told what they want to see) is the field bunched up and a lesser car stealing the win.

NASCAR has robbed Casey Mears of his first win not once, but twice when Invisible Debris reared its ugly head. Never mind that the debris in question was a spring rubber so far out of the racing groove that someone would have had to wreck to hit it; it was there, and fans were bored with Mears' big lead (or something). The yellow flew, and Mears was a sitting duck with any pit decision he had to make; helplessly, he was passed by Greg Biffle, who won his thirty-seventh race at Homestead. How predictable. To my mind, watching Mears get his first Nextel Cup win was excitement…but NASCAR tells me otherwise. That, they tell me, would have been too boring. Um, okay. You just go right on believing that, NASCAR.

This week's Invisible Debris caution with 23 laps to go was even more questionable. None of the television cameras could find it. None of the drivers reported seeing it. But NASCAR said it was there and threw the caution, erasing Jimmie Johnson's lead and virtually robbing the reigning champ of a win. Even Johnson, who is possibly the most politically correct person on the planet, expressed his doubts after the race. "We had a nice comfortable lead," said Johnson, "and the wonderful debris caution came out. If anyone has seen the debris, I would like to know where it was. I didn’t see it either…there were five trucks looking for it. It did seem like there would be one coming, to be honest. I hate it and wish it didn’t take place, but I think we all saw it coming."

The last statement is the most telling. The race leader was expecting a caution was coming. So, either Johnson has x-ray vision, or NASCAR decided we were bored and presto! Invisible Debris on the track waiting to attack. Darn that stuff anyway. Darn the race leader for being so critical. Doesn't he know that Invisible Debris is a terrible threat to race car drivers everywhere?

Of course, in the wake of a race where several spinning cars, including one upside down and on fire, were not enough debris for a caution, this makes NASCAR look even worse. Shockingly enough, though, there's a fix so easy for this problem even my cat could have figured it out. Send the cleanup crew out and have someone stand there and point out the debris to the TV cameras. That is all it would take, because real debris is dangerous if it cuts a tire. But NASCAR has failed to do that on numerous occasions, leaving fans to wonder…who's really bored?

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Pam R.
03/01/2007 10:14 PM

If this “invisible debris” continues to show up, NASCAR will find that some “invisible fans” may start showing up for the races.

03/01/2007 10:15 PM

Great article, if I recall back in the old days there would only be a couple cars even on the lead lap, or someone would win a race and 2nd place was 3 laps down. Not anymore thanks Brian France!

Pam J
03/02/2007 07:09 AM

Good article!

03/02/2007 07:15 AM

I wonder if a family member would have the courage to sue, if an invisible debris caution resulted in a fatal accident on the restart. More than likely they would parrot the usual response: “NASCAR takes every precaution to ensure driver safety. This was just an unfortunate accident.” After all, another family member might want to race in the future and the Frances have a long memory.

03/02/2007 07:32 AM

You hit the nail squarely on the head! Great article!

03/02/2007 07:48 AM

Apparently, between the invisble fans sitting in the grandstands at Fontana and the ones that were shopping under the grandstands, they almost had a sell-out.

Go back to the fall Atlanta race and that mystery debris caution. Not a single vehicle went around the track to pick up the “debris” and that was mentioned by a lot of folks I’ve talked to or e-mailed who were there.

I wonder when we’ll be seeing the drivers wearing tights, smacking each other with fold-up chairs, and dripping lots of “blood” during the pit stops or driver intros or when two cars wreck near each other? Welcome to the WWESCAR.

03/02/2007 08:13 AM

While I don’t agree with NASCAR throwing the caution like this, people seem to forget that NASCAR is hardly your typical stick and ball sport. It is much, much more commercial than that (and I don’t mean just TV ads). Johnson’s 2.whatever second lead with less than 30 laps to go plays right into the stereotype that Fontana is a boring race, and when the grandstands are consistenly empty, they think economically…not morally. Unfortuntately, as for last weekend’s race. There is no way to guarentee that Johnson would have ran away with the win. 20 laps is still plenty of time for someone to wreck or cut a tire. And you can even argue that despite the caution, he still could have won if his pit crew was just a little faster on that last stop.

03/02/2007 09:48 AM

Actually, those debris cations can be a good thing! I won $50 from my friends by having the closest guess as to when the phantom caution was going to come out (I guessed 25 to go).

I wonder how much more money those invisible fans spend than the real ones that used to go to Rockingham?

When you think about it it really was the perfect match: Artificial excitement, Invisible fans, phoney La La Land celebrities… all for the emperor with no clothes!

03/02/2007 01:19 PM

I was @ the BPS 500 last October (mentioned above) – friends/I refer to that as the “Jr’s about to pit out of seq under green? hey – isn’t that break dust up in 3?” caution…

03/02/2007 01:50 PM

Hey Mike C. I like that idea!!! I think I’ll get one of those pools going at my local watering hole. Great idea

03/02/2007 03:55 PM

Real race fans would rather see a race decided by the drivers and teams, not by some yahoos sitting in a control tower…even if the race is “boring”. NA$CAR needs to realize this sooner rather than later, as its TV ratings continue their freefall. Brian France would like nothing better than to have his grandstands filled with people who aren’t going to spend 5 seconds discussing the legitimacy of a caution flag because all they care about is being entertained. Fortunately, there are enough of us real fans still around to bring NA$CAR to its knees. (Why do you think they want rid of us so bad?) It’s already happening, as is evident from the sagging ratings and track attendance. Don’t attend another race or buy a single NA$CAR-related item until the powers-that-be stop manipulating the races. When they’re getting 2.0 Nielson ratings and half-capacity crowds at the tracks, they just might learn their lesson.

Brian France Sucks
03/02/2007 04:29 PM

In agreement to KB’s comment. No matter how you spin it, the racing at Fontana does and always will be mediocre at best. To Brian France and the anti-trust we call NASCAR and ISC, this is irrelevant. If you can fit more asses into the seats who cares about the quality of racing? Can anyone remember the last new track that wasn’t 1.5 miles or greater besides Loudon? Probably not, because you can’t fit more asses into the stands at small venues. More asses = more $$$, so why build an exciting track with fan and driver – pleasing racing action? Get rid of those tracks and start putting on washed-up has-been concerts to amuse the masses before a boring race, because you’ll make more $$$. The most ironic and amusing thing about it is the snoozefest we call Fontana can’t even draw enough fans to justify taking away the date from Rockingham, where at least you could blame the cold for lack of attendance, but never the racing. Like most things L.A. its all style and no substance, basically a hyped-up illusion. Maybe all those fans were shopping for nice trinkets or catching up on who won an Oscar. And penalizing a guy/crew who has busted his/their tail(s) to dominate is absolute crap. Think Bill Elliott would’ve ever lapped the field under the Brian France dictatorship? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. If you want to see some real racing, follow the Lucas Oil or WoO Late Model Series. If you want to go to the circus, watch NASCAR, the WWE, or Springer. They’re about the same, just pandering to the lowest common denominator.

03/02/2007 05:28 PM

Nascar ruined what I feel was the best race that Fontana has put on to date. I didn’t want to fall asleep at all this race, unlike previous ones. Shame on Nascar!

03/03/2007 09:33 PM

doesn’t matter about the phantom cautions. not a new practice. nascar has done this for years. even the drivers get in on the act. remember dale jr spinning on purpose at bristol to bring out the caution? how about robby gordon throwing roll bar padding out to bring out the caution? while I agree that it sucks, nascar fans keep watching and showing up at the tracks despite what is clearly manipulation of the race. those who are the most vocal ALWAYS continue to watch. If fans were really so outraged, they would simply tune out, stop attending and realize that the race they think they’re watching is a good part entertainment rather than sport, and at times it’s just a charade.


Contact Amy Henderson

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