Green-Flag Finish Rule Causes Added Destruction in ARCA Season Opener

(Photo Courtesy of ARCA)

By Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writter

Michael Self won a thriller Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. However, what happened behind him is also grabbing attention following the season-opening event for the ARCA Racing Series.

With only 13 cars finishing every lap of the extended 92-lap race, most of the night’s attrition can be dubbed natural plate racing. But much of the chaos in the final lap at Daytona is placed on the shoulders of ARCA, who, unlike the sister stock car series of NASCAR, has a rule that makes a green-flag finish mandatory. Here, the field lines up for a one-lap shootout. And if they wreck, they re-stack the existing cars for another crack at it.

The rule hit the wall hard when the top four cars of Sheldon Creed, Chase Purdy, Sean Corr and Travis Braden crashed in Turn 4 on the white flag, swallowing up a further six racecars in its wake.

Seeing an accident of the size — in a series that, two years ago, had only four cars contest every race — it immediately reeks of dollar signs. Per Venturini Motorsports, each racecar costs around $100,000. At the end of the day, that’s a load of money lost for a lot of small teams.

The accident gave the race lead to Michael Self, who went on to score his second career ARCA win and first at Daytona. For him, he sees the rule both as a fan and as a driver.

“As a fan, I always want to see a race end under green,” Self said. “That’s entertaining, right? How many times you have seen a race, the checkered flag flew halfway down the backstretch. It’s disappointing as a fan.

“You see a lot of people on social media complain about that, about the amount of wrecks saying it was ridiculous.”

Despite the criticism, Self supports the rule.

“I stand by ARCA and their decision to always race to the checkered,” he said. “I know that brings on a lot of risk, but as a driver, I like completing the race, getting a win I feel is deserved. Driving to the checkered flag is important. I applaud them for the decision to keep that going.”

Self’s crew chief Kevin Reed noted the side effect of damaged teams will be one of back-steps, having to play catch-up from the torn-up equipment.

“There’s still a certain amount of budget,” Reed said. “If you do tear something up, it takes something out for the rest of the year, for sure. It has to be made back up.”

Willie Mullins finished second, a career-best finish for the series part-timer, and he agrees that the driver is there to race, damage be damned.

“A finish under a yellow flag is anti-climatic,” Mullins said. “We have a lot of fans out there who are looking for a show and we’re here to put one on. We did tonight.

“Every dollar that comes through my hands is what I earn. With one lap to go, if we put it on the trailer in a box, we’re here to do that. I don’t care at that point. You’re at Daytona, you got one shot for us. For the team owners, it does hurt, but I don’t own any cars so we’re here to race and put it on the trailer if we have to.”

When the gates close Saturday night at Daytona, the fans, teams and drivers had a wild time chasing and watching the handful of survivors to the checkered flag under green. However, in the following few races or more, the teams admit they will be playing catch-up after a hit to the pocketbooks to start 2018.

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