What’s right as Kurt Busch, NASCAR differ on caution call

NASCAR screen capture

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

TALLADEGA, Ala. – No doubt that sitting in the tower and calling the shots in a NASCAR race – specifically, when to throw a caution and when not to – isn’t the easiest job on the planet and when the sanctioning body makes the wrong call there’s no doubt someone is going to be upset.

The facts, as they appear to be, are that NASCAR made a controversial call not to throw a caution Sunday afternoon when the No. 32 car of Matt DiBenedetto was fender-well deep and nose-first into the outside wall, the No. 9 car of Chase Elliott was careening off the No. 18 car of Kyle Busch. But again, fans aren’t up in the tower and in the past not finishing a race under green has also put NASCAR in hot water.

Shortly after the race ended, NASCAR was already taking it on the chin on social media after hearing Kurt Busch questioning their decision in post-race interviews.

“You guys can all go do your research to find out what is supposed to be the call,” Kurt Busch told Kickin’ the Tires, as he walked back to his hauler in the garage and spiked his Monster Energy can on the ground. “I have been here at Talladega before, running second and third trying to chase down the leader and they told me once an ambulance has to be dispatched because somebody hits the wall, then the race is over.”

Busch was angry following the race as he had just taken the white flag and a caution would have likely handed him the win … or would it? Still racing at full-speed with his spotter telling him cars were “wrecking behind you.” Busch ran out of fuel on the final turn of the race. His teammate, Aric Almirola, went on to win the race and Busch finished 14th.

In response, NASCAR sent out a statement to anyone seeking clarification on the call to explain their side of the story.

“We were closely monitoring each car involved, and were actively communicating with spotters and safety trucks in turn 1,” said a NASCAR spokesperson. “All cars were able to either roll off under their own power or signal they were clear. As always, we make every effort to end under green for our fans in the stands and at home, which we did.”

On Monday morning, NASCAR’s Chief Racing Development Officer, Steve O’Donnell, during his weekly interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio said, “Every call is a judgment call. The race on Saturday was in front of the field, you saw a couple of wheels get off the ground, and any time you’re going to have more and more of the field driving into that caution, we felt the need in that case to throw the caution. We always want to try to end under green, but in that case, we just felt like we couldn’t.

“Then on Sunday, very similar in terms of a car hitting the wall but where it happened was different in terms of where the field was. The car that, the 32-car then kept rolling, which is certainly a sign for us that we’re okay to keep going. The 9-car, where it stopped was right in front of our safety vehicles and had communication from the tower that that car was in good shape, so we elected to not throw the caution. Our first job is to always make sure everyone is safe and we felt like we did that in this case.”

O’Donnell is correct that DiBenedetto’s car rolled away from the wall after spinning several times but it was far from driveable. That meant an ambulance was sent to the crash and DiBenedetto was taken to the car center for his mandatory evaluation, which cleared him. Based on practice and qualifying speeds, it can be assumed DiBenedetto’s car hit the wall at a speed somewhere north of 160-mph.

It is unknown if Busch he could have crossed the finish line under power, as required by the NASCAR rulebook, if the caution had waived. Busch would argue that he would have made it to the start/finish line but it could also be argued to the contrary.

The takeaway is that NASCAR isn’t always right but neither are drivers and at the end of the day, the sanctioning body is going to make a call that will, for sure, upset some of its fans. This is one of those times but it’s certain some portion of the fanbase is happy the field battled to the checkered flag and the race finished under green and other are not.


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