What’s a NASCAR caution? There appears to be some confusion after the race at the ROVAL
In previous years, NASCAR was highly criticized for throwing cautions to bunch up the field.
Phantom debris cautions did exist. They bunched up the field and made the race more exciting but it wasn’t true to the race.
Other times, there would be a piece on debris on the track, for multiple laps. NASCAR would let it sit there until they were good and ready to use it to call the next caution.
Back in 2017, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr both criticized NASCAR for cautions that adjusted the finish of a race.
Since then, there was nearly an overnight change in the likelihood of cautions. Phantom debris cautions basically disappeared.
The sanction has been consistent across the board. I can say that I haven’t seen a phantom debris caution since. And, in the case of road courses, if a car spins out and keeps going, there wasn’t going to be a yellow flag.
Until this week at the ROVAL…
On lap 1, Alex Bowman spun around backward heading into the backstretch chicane. The field avoided him and he was able to continue rolling, no caution.
Lap 20, Ryan Preece spun through the back stretch chicane. He looped 360 degrees and continued rolling. The caution flag was deployed.
Lap 37, Corey LaJoie spun through the infield section. Nobody was around him and he was able to continue rolling. No caution this time.
Lap 62, Ryan Blaney was nursing a car with a broken suspension. As that was going on, Daniel Hemric went backwards in turn three of the NASCAR oval. He was able to keep rolling but the caution came out.
With 36 to go, Matt Tifft went around through the infield, five cars approached. Tifft came to a stop in the middle of the track, backwards. He looped it the right way, kept rolling and no caution was thrown.
21 to go, Ricky Stenhouse Jr spun backwards into the backstretch chicane. He rolled over the curbs and off into the runoff area. As he got it rolling again, the caution came out.
14 to go, Daniel Suarez spun through the infield grass. He was well away from the racing line. He stalled, re-fired and stalled it again. As he sat there, NASCAR dropped the caution.
Final lap, Ryan Newman was trying to figure out if he had to come down pit lane or stop in the restart zone to serve a penalty. As he slowed, he turned right into the lane of Daniel Suarez.
Suarez ran right into the back of him and went spinning into turn 17, the final corner on the track.
Suarez had heavy nose damage. The hood was buckled up, blocking the windshield but he kept it rolling. NASCAR didn’t throw a caution.
Chase Elliott on NASCAR cautions on the ROVAL
Overall, there was a lot of confusion as to what a caution was or not. Specifically when it came to the backstretch chicane.
“Obviously, that’s a discretion call for whoever makes that’s decision,” Chase Elliott stated in the media center after the ROVAL win.
“If they think somebody has wrecked bad enough, or whatever. I guess then they put the caution out.”
“I don’t know. That’s not really for me to concern myself over. I don’t make that decision. Luckily for us, the cautions fell at a a good time.”
“Honestly, we had more cautions there at the end than I was wanting. But, you don’t always get what you want. It worked out for us.”
Steve O’Donnell address caution flag inconsistencies
“If you look at the inconsistencies, that’s the first time I’ve seen that in a long time in terms of fan and media reaction,” stated Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer to ‘The Morning Drive’ via SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio.
“I think what gets lost in all this is, this isn’t the Coke 600. This is a 17 turn race track where there’s a lot of different things going on.”
“There’s a lot of different sight angles. So, when you look up and see smoke and we see some things in the tower, we’ll throw a caution.”
“When you see a car rolling off. You wait and don’t throw a caution. Then, it depends on circumstances.”
“One of the ones I saw even the last one with the #41. We’ve been consistent for I don’t know how many years… If a car’s able to roll off. If you don’t have to finish under yellow, we’ll do that.”
“Fans have the right to question that. But, I think we’d make all of those calls again. It’s a challenging race track with all those turns and all those judgement calls,” O’Donnell concluded.