The Frontstretch: Overly Cautious by Mike Neff -- Thursday November 9, 2006

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Overly Cautious

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Thursday November 9, 2006


NASCAR was under a lot of scrutiny a couple of weeks ago after rollbarpaddinggate. People were venting about debris cautions and the fact that many times there are debris cautions with no video evidence of anything on the track. This week, for whatever reason, there hasn't been the uproar. NASCAR was given a pass and it was rather surprising considering the events that unfolded at Texas.

On lap 167, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading Clint Bowyer coming out of turn four. Bowyer had a faster car and Junior didn't think big picture. Instead he pushed his car a little harder than he should, Bowyer got a little close to the back bumper, and Earnhardt wiggled. The #8 car caressed the wall and both cars continued on. Nothing fell off of Earnhardt's car. No one lost control of a car and spun in the way of oncoming traffic. A car grazed the wall and continued on with the race.

This happens 10 to 15 times a week in Cup races, 80 to 90 times at Darlington, 60 or so times at Martinsville and Bristol. Do we see 60 caution flags at Martinsville? Of course we don't; its racing for goodness sake! If there isn't visible debris falling off of a car that bounces off of the wall, there isn't a caution.

So the question is, why was there a caution this time? The caution flag flew before Earnhardt had even passed under the flag stand. It had to be the fastest caution in NASCAR history that didn't involve a safety truck on the back stretch at Charlotte. It is amazing that the hordes of conspiracy theorists, who think that Daytona is all about getting Junior a Championship, haven't been screaming and hollering to anyone who would listen that the NASCAR powers were making sure that Junior could fix his car without going down a lap.

NASCAR should always err on the side of safety. That's why the roll bar padding caution should have been thrown. It was a large object near the racing surface, but this didn't create any debris. This was a caution simply for the fact that Earnhardt bumped the wall. Brian Vickers hit the wall earlier in the race and there wasn't a caution for that contact. Elliott Sadler was leaking enough fluid that his car was black flagged, but there wasn't a caution.

However, when the supposed poster boy of the sport loses some paint off of the right side of the car, the caution flag flies immediately. It certainly gives the appearance that NASCAR played some favorites, at least in this case. NASCAR is creating a very large shadow of doubt when it comes to their caution flag decisions. It is in their best interest to work with their television partners to show debris on the track whenever they throw a debris caution. They also need to be consistent about the criteria that is used for throwing a caution for wall contact. Safety in racing is everyone's first concern. However, it is possible to be overly cautious.

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11/10/2006 05:08 AM

You sure got me to thinkin’!

Is Nascar smart enough or quick enough to control this stuff though?


11/10/2006 06:18 AM

Good grief Charlie Brown. Did someone pee in your cornflakes this morning? Are you having a hard time coming up with a real story or are you just a pot stirrer? BTW, did you actually see the race in person or on the ole’ telly? Either way, me thinks you need a trip to the optometrist/psychiatrist/psychologist, because dearheart you have some issues.

Rick Bourdon
11/10/2006 07:00 AM

NASCAR is a mean ole’ ogert if they throw a caution, and they’re a mean ole’ ogert if they don’t. I think every fan thinks NASCAR is conspiring against their favorite driver. A NASCAR race is a very fast, fluid, and constantly changing event. I think under the circumstances, they do the best that they can do. IS NASCAR perfect? NO. Is there room for improvement? YES, but show me a sport where they don’t have these same type of discussions about the sanctioning body/officiating. The NASCAR officials can only react to what’s happening on the track, and that stuff is happening in the blink of an eye. They do a pretty darn good job, which is more than I can say for the NBC broadcasts of the races. To paraphrase Dave Moody, what’s important is that a NASCAR official doesn’t go home on Sunday night and say to themselves, “If only I had thrown that caution flag, that person would not have been killed.” Now, shut-up and race!!!

11/10/2006 11:57 AM

Wow! I must have missed that. I just remember BP explaining the situation. Anyway, this is business as usual for NASCAR.

11/10/2006 12:45 PM

Mike, quit bashing Dale Earnhardt, Jr.!!! As hard as he hit the wall, I am sure the officials thought there would have to be debris on the track…it was a safety call. (But I still love you.)

11/11/2006 04:51 PM

Forget rollbar padding and cautions, lets talk about Brian France scraping a tree, what really happened, and was there a coverup? You know old Jack Roush just might become unapologetic and fire him on the spot


Contact Mike Neff

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