NASCAR: Drivers avoid no-caution call
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sprint Cup drivers remained tightlipped rather than second-guess NASCAR for the no-caution finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week.
The no-call, which came after Jeff Burton spun in traffic, allowed Kevin Harvick to pass Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his third victory of the season when Earnhardt ran out of gas in the final lap.
“NASCAR has to do the best they can, and they didn’t feel like they needed to throw a caution there, and in the end everyone finished the race safely,” Cup points leader Carl Edwards said. “That is a lot bigger decision than I am paid to make.”
Still, the finish raised questions about whether NASCAR should be as stringent about calling late cautions as it is to bring out the yellow in similar situations earlier in races.
Earnhardt, who likely would have coasted to his first win in almost three years had the caution come out, steered clear of the issue, while noting his fans’ bitter disappointment — much of which was expressed through YouTube videos.
“When you’re passionate and you care — it’s a cliche, but when that’s all that matters you’re ticked until things get right or you’re upset until things get right no matter what,” Earnhardt said. “I can definitely relate.”
Drivers tended to be diplomatic about the issue, even while acknowledging that a caution might have aided their cause.
“It is not easy to call a race,” 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth said. “You want the fans to see a green-flagged finish, but you also have to have the safety of the fans and competitors and people on pit road on your mind at the same time. I know when they came back around there was nobody on the track and all the cars had cleared off there, so I don’t know.”
Ryan Newman, however, at least acknowledged the various controversies — one of which held that NASCAR let the race continue because Earnhardt was running up front.
“It’s a Catch-22,” Newman said. “You can look at it from one perspective and say, ‘Yeah, they were playing favorites,’ and on the other side, it’s a dangerous situation when you have cars that are going to be continuing to run out of multiple restarts. Was there a right or wrong? I don’t think so, but obviously it played out the way it did. Kevin was the right man in the right position at that time.”
The situation just points up the need for drivers to be aware of developments on the track and adjust accordingly, Kyle Busch said.
“Everything in this sport is circumstantial anyway,” Busch said. “If there’s a caution, there’s a caution. If there’s no caution, you just keep racing.”