As the Toyota Tundra 250 unfolded Friday night, I had to wonder. Did NASCAR really screw up the Camping World Truck Series with that quirky Caution Clock?
In the off-season, the announcement of the new fangled means of bunching up the field without calling fake debris cautions was heralded by an outcry of dismay by the NASCAR fan base. It appeared that France & Co. had finally admitted to the fact that they were in fact the WWE with engines and a steering wheel. Now we’d have the race director stopping the competition because…well, I never got a good explanation of why this was introduced, except for the fact it provided another marketing opportunity for sponsors.
Nonetheless, we used the caution clock. After twenty minutes of racing, whether anybody was wadded up by the wall or spewing brake rotors on the front stretch, the yellow flag would fly and we’d all get to come to pit road. And you know, up until Friday night, it really was not much of a story. The trucks tend to wreck on a fairly regular basis and relieve the officials of the need to drop the flag for no apparent reason other than a chance to run to the bathroom.
Around lap 115, we started to wonder. The green flag had been flying for an inordinately long time. A few trucks had pitted more than fifty laps ago and you just had to wonder about fuel. But that caution clock was ticking down to zero. There were only a couple minutes left. There would be no green flag stops. The field was waiting for the manufactured yellow to fly. And it did. At Lap 123 the flag was displayed, and in that instant the No. 66 truck slammed into the wall and began a slow roll to a stop just before the entrance to pit lane.
That’s when the fun began. The pits couldn’t be opened while they pushed the No. 66 out of the way. By the time the wrecker had the blue and white truck headed to the garage, the majority of the field was riding on the bottom of the track and praying the fumes would last. However, each time it looked like we’d turn the pit entrance light green, another truck would stop. The No. 13 of Cameron Haley, the No. 63 of Bobby Pierce and finally the No. 00 of Cole Custer all ran out of gas. However, by the time the No. 00 was parked just before the commitment cone with an empty tank, it was apparent the entire field was in danger of running out of gas.
Right then my brain was screaming at what NASCAR had done by creating the monster of the caution clock. Couldn’t they see what kind of disaster had been created by artificially bringing the race to a stop an eternity after the time when teams would have commenced green flag stops if the caution clock didn’t exist? The world had come to an end! Nobody could fuel up!
And then a light flickered on. It wasn’t the damn clock at all. Teams have been running out of fuel in a gamble to reach a flag for years. However, it usually happens at the very end of a race, not with 45 laps remaining. The only thing that went wrong was a comedy of errors as one truck after another blocked the entrance to pit road and the wreckers took an eternity to clear the track, just in time for the next sputtering vehicle to clog up the works.
It was simply a cluster**** Nobody’s fault. It was…NASCAR. And the trucks continued on their parade, ending in some beatin’ and bangin’ between Mr. Sauter and newbie Ben Rhodes, and crowning Lord Byron in Victory Lane. It was a pretty good night, when all of that is taken into consideration.
Now, is the caution clock worthy of introducing to the upper ranks? Considering I still want the ill-conceived concept to cause a major problem, no. It’s a poor idea. We can make excuses for it all we want, but the fact remains it has no place in the field of competition–whether somebody wants to stick their sponsor name on it or not.
The Kenseth Blues
If you missed this review of Kenseth’s season so far by Jason Vivone, you missed a rare music moment on a NASCAR broadcast. Funny, on-point, and a really good vibe. Enjoy!
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