Opinions

The Competition Caution 400 (formerly known as the Brickyard 400)

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Allstate 400 Practice

 

Now that the tire dust has finally settled from yesterday’s race, let’s look at what I feel was the biggest damage done to the sport of Cup racing, sacrificing driver safety for the goodwill of the fans. That NASCAR had to resort to bringing out 6 competition cautions due to tire issues was a shame and I expect Chris covered that issue with his article. However, my thoughts are that if NASCAR was bringing out the competition cautions due to safety issues, then they should have expanded on that by not changing the field during the pit stops.

Granted, when out of 160 laps 52 were ran under caution that makes for fewer on-track opportunities to pass and extend leads but the pit road shuffling is risky enough during a “normal” race without having to add pressure on the teams with numerous mandatory caution pits. When drivers are moving up 10 or more positions during pit stops, you can bet there were a lot of short cuts taken that all the officials couldn’t catch as they were busy staring at the tires with cords showing through them. There was one televised instance when a FedEx pit crew member just behind the wall was trying to catch a runaway tire that was knocked out of the tire changer’s hands by Reed Sorenson’s car when that car was exiting pit road too close to Hamlin’s car. The camera followed the injured crew member and was showing him getting his arm tended to by safety officials.

I feel that the field should be frozen when the competition cautions are brought out so that nobody gains anything or loses anything. Does it make for a more boring race? Certainly, but it makes for a safer race. There were probably other injury instances that ESPN wasn’t able to catch but then again that was probably because of ESPN and not for lack of instances. Maybe Dr. Jerry needs to be back on the track instead of being up in the glass towers.

I realize that NASCAR has to have a show for the 200,000 fans that were at the track in addition to the television/radio audience and I also understand that the race at Indianapolis is only second to Daytona 500 as the event of the racing season. However, in the attempt to put on the show, NASCAR lost sight again of the long-term goals of doing right both by the fans and the race teams. If driver safety is such an issue, then stick to the guns on that by freezing the fields during competition cautions. To do otherwise might result in what the Formula One drivers did back in 2005 at Indy when Michelin could not guarantee the safety of their tires. 14 of the 20 starting drivers just pulled off the track prior to the drop of the green flag. Unfortunately, that killed the popularity of Formula One in the U.S. after that race. I believe NASCAR wants to avoid that by providing a race to the fans at any cost but the drivers have to be wondering if the cost isn’t getting too high. Isn’t the Car of Today proof of that as it is?

 

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