Sittin' In The Stands · S.D. Grady · Monday July 8, 2013
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The most remarkable thing happened Saturday night. It wasn’t that Jimmie Johnson won, or even dominated the race. Nor that we had a green-white-wreckers. Or that cars piled into walls at frightening speeds. In fact, the Coke Zero 400 was very much like many other races we’ve seen at Daytona International Speedway. Except one.
When the white flag flew, the pack flew into Turn One, three wide and hungry for an exciting finish. As they approached Turn Two, it happened. Somebody wiggled, bumped his neighbor and the wreck was on. I lay my head back on the couch and said, “It’s over.” Of course, the caution would fly.
But it didn’t. Much to my disbelief, with machines littering the track, the No. 48 continued on his way to the first Daytona sweep since 1982. Yes, we had one more car-munching experience before he reached the finish line, but that first wreck in Turn Two didn’t have anything to do with it. The second incident was just more people anxious to reach the end before the eight other cars around them.
I’m not upset about the lack of a caution flag—far from it. I’m actually pleased. For once, Sprint Cup officials let the race play out without throwing an inconvenient yellow just to make everybody feel better.
We do lots of things in the NSCS to make people happy. We’ll run 20 parade laps in the rain just so the sponsors get their little bit of TV coverage when everybody and their two-year-old knew the race was never going to run that day. There are competition cautions supposedly to permit teams to make adjustments for a green track, but when the pit stops are live and you still lose position to somebody who made fewer adjustments, the reason for the caution doesn’t really play out. And what about those other cautions? The debris versions.
Sometimes we’ll be shown the hot dog wrapper, but there are plenty of times when it seems like it just might be a good time for everybody to take a long breath right about now; it gives those jet dryers a chance to burn some fuel.
Finally, it has been determined in the interest of driver safety that the caution will be thrown when somebody spins out. The field is basically frozen and the benefit of racing back to the line, as in olden days, is no longer done so safety crews can get to the wounded vehicle and its driver. For years now, this rule has been followed to the letter. Time after time we witnessed the yellow drop on the last lap when a car wrecked behind the leaders. The field was frozen and we were then deprived of that “anything can happen” moment.
On short tracks, I’m all good with this practice. It takes no time at all for the field to run a lap, and it’s less than easy for the leaders to slow down when coming back upon the wreck. Leaving the field to go green is a recipe designed for further carnage.
But at the big tracks, like Daytona, I have often wondered at NASCAR’s unwillingness to bend the rules a little bit. It made no sense to halt the field and end the race if the wreck didn’t affect the leaders or their ability to continue on. Meanwhile, we all know that even though NASCAR says things like, “We want the race to finish green,” it doesn’t always seem like they mean it. Consistency has never been their middle name.
In fact, I’ve watched so many Camping World Truck Series races where the yellow flag was held back, and Nationwide, and even local events, that I was thoroughly convinced chickening out on the last lap was something Sprint Cup was willing to do in favor of running more commercials, or some other equally stupid reason.
Thus, you can understand I was completely taken by surprise Saturday night. No flag was thrown. The field was allowed to race to the checkers and nothing bad happened. It worked out…like it was supposed to!
I don’t know what random alignment of the stars occurred that permitted it to happen. I have no faith that we might be treated to a repeat. However, NASCAR Nation was shown that we can race to the finish and we’re a whole lot happier for that.
Happy fans? Who would’ve thunk.
Kyle Larson Stat
Car: No. 32 Clorox Chevrolet
Points Standings: 6th
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