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Did they bend the rules for Dale Jr.?

Whether NASCAR are Junior fans or not, the way it played out without a caution was perfect for TV ratings and stole headlines even from the dramatic end to the Indianapolis 500 a few hours earlier. Either they would get a hugely popular Earnhardt victory (which would wipe the Indy 500 off the back pages on Monday in the stockcar nation heartland) or else they got what actually transpired - last corner heartbreak and high drama as Harvick swept past to steal the win.

Either way, in terms of marketing it was a great success for NASCAR - which demonstrates a long-standing tension in motorsport: whether to err on the side of safety, or of entertainment.

It's not just NASCAR that wrestles with this balance of course: the officials at Indianapolis were also criticised for not bringing out the yellow flag the moment JR Hildebrand crashed on the last corner of the race, but instead hesitated and allowed Dan Wheldon to pass by the wreck at high speed before bringing out the caution with the chequered flag.

If the yellow had come out straight away - as would happen at any other time in the race- then Panther may have had grounds to challenge the race result based on Wheldon having overtaken Hildebrand's wrecked but still moving car under yellow which could have been breaking the rules. Instead, the race steward opted to keep the track green for several crucial seconds despite Wheldon having to pass by a potentially dangerous accident site.

The Indy 500 caution delay was a matter of seconds; the Coca-Cola 600 was almost two whole laps. And that coming when NASCAR are notoriously quick to bring out a yellow at the drop of a single piece of debris on the track even when TV cameras can't find anything, coincidentally just when it's convenient to close up the field and make for an exciting restart at a key moment of the race.

"A reputation for phantom debris cautions during boring stretches works against NASCAR here," agreed Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer. "It doesn't help, either, that Harvick himself questioned a debris call earlier in the race when he grumbled over his radio he didn't see anything on the track and that NASCAR makes those calls to benefit the chosen ones."

It all gives rise to the suggestion that NASCAR race/safety directors are becoming rather too interchangeable with entertainment and TV directors, trying to choreograph the night's action and storylines to the best advantage for fan consumption rather than looking out for the health and safety of the competitors.

"The pressure is on," NASCAR President Mike Helton had acknowledged an hour before the race, conceding that the previous week's All-Star Race at the same venue had been a bit of a snooze-fest. "Hope tonight is good." No undue pressure there from the boss, then.

But no one is perfect, a decision has to be made, and often the situation required that decision to be made in split-seconds - right or wrong.

"The one thing I have learned over the last two or three weeks is there has to be a judge," race winner Kevin Harvick said. "There has to be somebody making those decisions, and there has to be somebody who's going to say, 'Yep, there's debris on the track. I see it and there it is.' There has to be somebody making the calls, and I'm glad I don't have to make them."




Related Pictures

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Kevin Harvick crosses the finish line after passing Dale Earnhardt Jr on the final lap to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. [Picture credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS SS, qualifies for second position Friday, March 18, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Harvick will be joined on the front row by pole setter Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS, captures the pole position Friday, March 18, 2016 for a front row start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Dillon will be joined on the front row with Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS who qualified second. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS, with team owner and grandfather Richard Childress after capturing the pole position Friday, March 18, 2016 for a front row start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Dillon will be joined on the front row with Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS who qualified second. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS, captures the pole position Friday, March 18, 2016 for a front row start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Dillon will be joined on the front row with Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS who qualified second. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his eighth Phoenix win with his crew Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR.  (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to his eighth Phoenix win with Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS who finished in sixth place Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Harvick won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was his 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, takes the chequered flag for his eighth Phoenix win Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his eighth Phoenix win Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)

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vio - Unregistered

June 02, 2011 3:28 PM

The main problem is consistency. You can't throw cautions for stupid stuff all day and then not throw one when there are cars sliding around the racetrack. Nascar's antics are similar to those in professional wrestling (WWE).



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