This week’s Frontstretch debate question: The ending to this past weekend’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway came down to the race leader, Kasey Kahne, crossing the overtime line located on the backstretch before the caution lights were illuminated. By doing so, he had won the race and the event had been deemed final. But the timing of the caution has came under scrutiny in the following days by media, fans and drivers alike.
Did NASCAR make the right call by throwing the race-ending caution when they did?
Why’s it gotta be like this?
I ain’t gonna beat around the bush. Because I was pretty heated about this whole ordeal even hours after the checkered flag flew. And a few days later, I still am.
Hell no. NASCAR didn’t make the right call by throwing the caution when they did.
I know that darkness was fast approaching, and if they threw the yellow flag before Kasey Kahne reached the overtime line that they might not have been able to restart the race again. I know there was a ton of debris and oil on the track that would have taken a long time to clean up. I know that clean up would have probably resulted in another red flag condition. And I know that the rule is the rule, and kudos to NASCAR for sticking to that rule.
But it’s a dumb one. I’m not a fan of it.
What I am is a race fan. And chances are, if you’re reading this, you are too. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my finishes to be under green at all costs. I get it, sometimes extenuating circumstances will dictate the event to finish under caution. But the Brickyard 400 didn’t have to finish under caution. Neither did the XFINITY Series event at Daytona. But, unfortunately, it did.
Obviously, the finish brought a good amount of questioning and controversy (as they have a lot more than normal, lately). NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell tried to give some clarity from the sanctioning body’s perspective on why they threw the caution when they did.
“What we have always said and we have always been consistent, is we’re going to make every attempt to finish the race under green, and to do that you have to see what happens with an incident,” O’Donnell told a select group of media post-race at Indianapolis. “In this case, we did that. Once we decided to throw the caution when we wanted to dispatch emergency equipment we also knew that there was oil on the race track; we threw the caution and ultimately that’s the end of the race.”
I like Mr. O’Donnell. He’s always open and understanding with the media, fans and isn’t afraid to flame drivers on social media. But I’m going to dissect some of his quotes right here. Because yes, I’m still heated.
Take a look at this screenshot from NBC’s broadcast of the second (and final) overtime. You can clearly see that the race leader, Kasey Kahne, hasn’t reached the overtime line. And you can also clearly see that the wreck behind them has been occurring for at least a couple seconds. Right? Right.
Soooo why did you wait an extra few seconds to display the yellow flag, Mr. O’Donnell? If you want to “make every attempt to finish the race under green,” then do exactly that. Throw the caution, dispatch safety and clean-up crews, clean it up as quick as possible and get back racing.
I realize that’s easier said than done. I truly do. But in my opinion, I think I’d rather see NASCAR attempt to clean the track in hopes of a third and final overtime finish instead of ending the race like it did. Or even calling the race due to darkness. Which, again, I realize was a real possibility.
O’Donnell is on record as saying the overtime line will probably go away after the 2017 season (THANK THE LORD), but that doesn’t change the fact that it came into play once again this weekend in one of the craziest races of the season and one of the best in Brickyard 400 history.
I realize what you’ve read may sound pretty blunt and it might not sound like I know what I’m talking about and I’m just some 21-year-old kid who is yelling and screaming about something he didn’t like (which is kind of correct, I guess). But it comes from a good place.
All I want is a worthy ending to a crown jewel race that was action-packed and actually fun to watch, which, for a NASCAR race at Indy, has been pretty rare lately. But for the viewers watching on television (which was an increase in previous years), it was anything but. – Davey Segal
Let’s Mellow with the Yellow
Obviously no one but the NASCAR officials knows the answer for sure, but my initial reaction to the Brickyard 400’s finish was that the caution came out at the appropriate time.
The one thing that infuriated me about the Brickyard 400’s finish was that NBC would not show a real-time replay of Denny Hamlin’s wreck coming out of Turn 2 in comparison to when the caution was thrown. The network gladly showed where leader Kasey Kahne was in relation to the Overtime Line when the yellow lights came on, but would not show the camera view that would actually help people to decipher what happened.
I swear sometimes the television networks do not give you all of the answers just so viewers will have things to debate. It is the same deal with the football coverage, where the television cameras are always just off from the endzone line so viewers at home cannot really tell if a player scored or not. If no one knows what really happened, then people will argue about it and whatever event the network was covering will turn into a “trending topic.”
One thing that NBC does provide with its coverage of NASCAR that FOX does not, is a full race replay on its app after the race is over. I looked at the real-time replay of the Brickyard’s final overtime over and over again to see if I thought the official intentionally waited until Kahne crossed the OT line before they threw the caution.
There is definitely a delay from the time Hamlin’s Toyota slams into the wall and the yellow lights flashing, but it did not seem like a blatant delay. You have to remember that no caution is ever immediate and it always relies on the human factor; the time it takes for the officials to look at a wreck and decide whether it is bad enough to warrant a yellow or not. If you have seen the trial scene in the movie Sully then you understand exactly what I am talking about.
I absolutely abhor the Overtime rules and the line, but I think it played out exactly the way the rulebook says it should.
Even if NASCAR had decided to wait until Kahne crossed the line to throw the caution, it was the right call to make. The track had gotten so dark that there would not have been enough time to clean up the mayhem left from Hamlin, Paul Menard and Ty Dillon.
Had the yellow came out prior to Kahne crossing the line, then NASCAR would have tried to clean up the mess for a couple minutes before eventually calling the race under red flag conditions. This would have made fans even madder. Plus, then NASCAR would have had to admit that darkness would not have been a factor had the race started at 1 p.m./e.t. like it should.
I hate to sound like O.J. Simpson’s book, but I do not think that NASCAR officials waited to throw the caution, but if they did, then it was the best possible thing they could have done in a no-win situation.
If you want to be mad at anyone about Sunday’s finish, then be mad at Denny Hamlin. He had a severe tire rub before the final restart even happened, but he elected to stay out on the track and go for the win, and what do you know, the tire blew, causing the wreck that made the race finish under caution
I am not mad at Hamlin because I would have done the exact same thing in his situation. He would have given up any shot he had at winning had he pitted for tires, and winning is everything now in this sport. I am just saying if you want a scapegoat for why the finish to the Brickyard 400 sucked, then Hamlin is your guy.
The Overtime rules need to change, but in the meantime, let’s all just be thankful that races no longer end under caution when the yellow flag come out with seven or so laps to go. That is what happened in the sport prior to 13 years ago and it was truly horrible. – Michael Massie
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.
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