The Frontstretch: Racing 101: How to Use a Yellow Flag by S.D. Grady -- Tuesday May 4, 2010

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Racing 101: How to Use a Yellow Flag

Sitting In The Stands: A Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Tuesday May 4, 2010


Editor’s Note: Have you not signed up for your FREE Frontstretch Newsletter yet in 2010? If you haven’t heard, it’s a daily edition we put out Monday through Friday with NASCAR news, commentary, interviews, and information you can’t find anywhere else on the site. Every Tuesday, S.D. Grady gives her opinions and commentary on everything racing exclusive to the Newsletter; and this week, it’s the dreaded yellow flag she’s got her eye on…

Think about it: There’s nothing quite so thrilling as watching a car start to slide in the turn. If you’re attentive, you can see those gloves waving wildly back and forth as the driver fights the wheel to get his machine under control. Most of the time, if that car’s tail is waaaaay out of shape, it’s a sure thing that your breath will expel only when you hear that sickening smack into the outside wall.

So how much sweeter is the moment when not only does that driver drive away from certain carnage, but the guy that was riding his tail, who executed a synchronized spin himself, manages to save his totally out of control ride as well?

Awesome, dude! Totally awesome!

Such was the key moment of Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series O’Reilly’s Auto Parts 250.

Running down Johnny Sauter for the lead, Ron Hornaday encountered lapped traffic, tried to avoid a slow truck, and executed the perfect rolling wreck! And here’s the best thing about it: there was no caution flag to go along with it.

God damn, if Johnny Sauter in the No. 13 and Ron Hornaday in the pursuing No. 33 didn’t execute the near impossible. They were sideways! Not a little wobble. No, the kind of out of shape that usually has the flagman lifting that yellow flag in preparation of race control’s announcement, “Put it out.” I mean, they were running first and second. They wrecked! They just didn’t hit each other or the wall. Then they sorted out which way was forward, put the pedal back down, and… drove off to finish the race!

Through it all, no caution flew. Nothing happened to destroy the excitement of the battle. The officials stayed silent, and I was permitted a moment of jaw-dropping, finger-pointing amazement.

That, to my way of thinking, was the perfect ending to a race.

Now, rewind to Friday night’s Nationwide battle. At lap 186, Jason Leffler’s No. 38 Great Clips machine took a long slide up the track. His brakes had finally given up any pretense at being effective, leaving him simply on a mission to find his way towards pit road.

He never got there. Apparently afraid that the No. 38 might present some kind of danger to the outer wall, NASCAR threw the caution. Rusty Wallace thought so, too, and commented, “That just flat scared NASCAR.”

As usual, that fluttering yellow flag killed any kind of action happening on the track. I could be sitting here wondering what had possibly got into the officials Friday night, but I don’t have to.

Even though I am extremely generous when judging the actions of those in race control, there is one sad fact. Given the slightest opportunity in the Sprint Cup levels, and apparently Nationwide, that yellow flag will be thrown — no matter what. And I really feel it’s necessary to call them to task for this knee-jerk reaction.

I can’t tell you how many times at my local track there is a killer race on and somebody gets sideways in the corner. They spin. They even block the track.
We look over at the flag stand… no yellow flag. We wait. The driver puts his machine in gear, staggers forward a few feet. No yellow flag. The field is bearing down the backstretch… this could get crazy! No yellow flag. Finally, tires squeal and the poor guy gets his car moving. Everybody in the stands cheers. NO YELLOW FLAG!

We will boo and hiss when the driver just sits up by the wall, forces the officials to bring out the pace car, and then takes off. We know what the deal is. He’s just hoping to stay on the lead lap. To us, that is just dirty pool.

But back to that caution flag, and to those two spinning heroes on Sunday afternoon.

Let’s hypothesize for just a moment, imagining that we weren’t in Kansas and the vehicles turned in the wrong direction weren’t trucks. Say that was Kyle’s No. 18 and Jimmie’s No. 48 burning rubber as they beat back the inevitable. Let’s surmise that the usual suspects sat up in the tower. What do you think would happen then — even if the next closest competitor to those two was nine seconds back?

There would have been a caution. There would have been a double-file restart, and maybe a car that hadn’t even had the leaders in sight prior to the yellow would have managed to muscle their way to the checkered flag. And gosh… wouldn’t that suck.

Look, we know there’s a certain amount of showmanship involved with presenting a NASCAR race. But this is still a sport. That means the best possible moments are not manufactured. In the heat of the moment, the fans don’t really care if Gordon and Johnson haven’t been very happy lately. Honestly, if Kyle Busch is spanking the field because he’s got the car, that’s cool. And Lord knows if four fenders and two doors that belong to two cars are sharing the same three square feet, it doesn’t much matter what the number on the roof might be.

So we’re begging you, NASCAR. If nothing else, remember your integrity when there hasn’t been a yellow in “far too long.” Dropping that flag because a few marbles up by the wall are bugging you will do one thing and one thing only – steal a fantastic race from the competitors and the fans.

In the meantime, go ahead and watch that Truck race. Take some notes, and learn from those that did it right.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


©2000 - 2008 S.D. Grady and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

05/04/2010 06:42 AM

Kyle fan (full disclousure)
If Kyle spun and was to go a lap down The tower would be cheering. But you are right there are some drivers that nascar does everything in their power to help. HMS is a very good example.
I understand safety first, and do not want ANY DRIVER to get hurt, but when you have a spin with NO CONTACT or “debris caution (the pits do not need to open)and then 8-10 laps of caution so every car can pit and fix all their problems. (more dirty pool)
While I’m not a big fan of GWC, I believe as long as nascar continues these longer then needed cautions and even 5 + laps of caution after a red flag we do deserve green flag finishes.

05/04/2010 09:38 AM

You confuse me . I’ve never the seen the words integrity and NASCAR in the same sentence . Must have been a typo because those two words are mutually exclusive .

05/04/2010 05:13 PM

Anybody else find it ‘interesting’ that as Kyle pounded the field saturday night, a debris caution was thrown mere SECONDS after he lapped Johnson. Not only did 27 cars in total make up a lap on that caution, but there was ANOTHER debris caution shortly after the restart for a frickin water bottle! It seemed to me like NASCAR knew Kyle could have lapped the field and decided to take 8 lead lap cars and make it 28 instead… just my opinion

05/04/2010 09:08 PM

Richmond was a great race right up until the point NA$CAR stuck their nose in it, as usual. CLICK. The White House Press dinner was pretty funny though. Obummer even threw his own caution with a joke.

05/06/2010 12:34 PM

On this National Day of Prayer, perhaps we should include a prayer for a writer who apparently has such a limited vocabulary that she has to resort to using God’s name in vain. Yes, she has the right to free speech, but that was completely unnecessary. This may have been an interesting article, but I couldn’t continue to read it after that point. I won’t be reading any more of her articles and I am somewhat disappointed in this website, which has become one of my favorites, for allowing something like that in one of its articles.

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