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 wasnât 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 havenât seen a phantom debris caution since. And, in the case of road courses, if a car spins out and keeps going, there wasnât going to be a yellow flag.
Until this week at the ROVALâŠ
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 didnât throw a caution.
Overall, there was a lot of confusion as to what a caution was or not. Specifically when it came to the backstretch chicane.
âObviously, thatâs a discretion call for whoever makes thatâs decision,â Chase Elliott stated in the media center after the ROVAL win.
âIf they think somebody has wrecked bad enough, or whatever. I guess then they put the caution out.â
âI donât know. Thatâs not really for me to concern myself over. I donât make that decision. Luckily for us, the cautions fell at a a good time.â
âHonestly, we had more cautions there at the end than I was wanting. But, you donât always get what you want. It worked out for us.â
âIf you look at the inconsistencies, thatâs the first time Iâve seen that in a long time in terms of fan and media reaction,â stated Steve OâDonnell,Â NASCARÂ executive vice president and chief racing development officer to âThe Morning Driveâ via SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio.
âI think what gets lost in all this is, this isnât the Coke 600. This is a 17 turn race track where thereâs a lot of different things going on.â
âThereâs a lot of different sight angles. So, when you look up and see smoke and we see some things in the tower, weâll throw a caution.â
âWhen you see a car rolling off. You wait and donât throw a caution. Then, it depends on circumstances.â
âOne of the ones I saw even the last one with the #41. Weâve been consistent for I donât know how many yearsâŠ If a carâs able to roll off. If you donât have to finish under yellow, weâll do that.â
âFans have the right to question that. But, I think weâd make all of those calls again. Itâs a challenging race track with all those turns and all those judgement calls,â OâDonnell concluded.