By Summer Bedgood – The NASCAR Nationwide Series was without a doubt the most exciting championship battle of the Homestead weekend, which wasn’t much of a surprise considering that the Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup Series points were all but wrapped up. However, an eight point gap heading into the weekend was still a pretty small margin considering that Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. were equally matched all season.
The race as a whole was not bad either. Though most viewers probably turned on the race with high expectations, we didn’t see the dull parade laps that many expected to see at an intermediate track like Homestead. Surprisingly enough, despite the fact that drivers like Kyle Busch and eventual race winner Brad Keselowski were in it, the race was still competitive.
If you’re like me though, when the checkered flag fell at the end of the race, you were left wanting more. There was an empty feeling surrounding the race, even as yellow smoke wafted out from underneath Dillon’s tires on the frontstretch.
Perhaps it was the 12 lap caution period that left me feeling that way.
As the final race of the NNS came to a close, a multi-car crash ensued off turn four involving Regan Smith, Mike Wallace, Jeremy Clements, and Bryan Silas. The crash left a ton of debris and fluid on the track that would obviously require a lot of clean-up. So you would think the natural reaction from NASCAR would be to throw the red flag in order to not waste laps under caution during the championship race, right?
Apparently not, because NASCAR continued to allow the laps to wind down, even delaying the restart several times in order to allow the clean-up crew to continue to get the track clear for the drivers. What would have been a fifteen lap sprint to the finish was now a five-lap dash.
Dillon finished 12th while Hornish finished eighth. That four position gap wasn’t enough for Hornish to win the championship and Dillon would ultimately hold a three point lead over Hornish once the race was over.
Would the result have been any different had NASCAR called a red flag and allowed a restart for, say, 12 to go? If I’m being honest, probably not. Hornish had a terrible restart and lost several positions over the course of five laps. It’s entirely likely that Hornish could have lost even more positions had there been more laps and the championship points spread would have been larger.
It’s also possible that he could have gotten his stride back and picked up a couple more positions. It’s possible that Dillon could have gotten passed. Heck, forget the championship. It’s possible that we could have gotten to see a more exciting battle for the race win. Not that it wasn’t exciting, of course, but the possibilities are endless.
The point is that we don’t know what would have happened, and that is what was most frustrating. I know that last Saturday wasn’t the first instance this season where NASCAR allowed them to run under yellow for longer than they should have. It doesn’t matter. Fans should be able to see as many green flag laps as possible. It’s why they invented the green-white-checkered procedure and eventually added two more attempts. Though I know the purpose of the red flag is more to be a courtesy to the clean-up crew than the fans, if the clean-up is going to take longer than a normal caution period, why not just red flag it?
It’s interesting how often this “100% rule” continues to backfire on NASCAR, and I saw several references to that rule on social media as this hyper-caution-period debacle ensued in front of us. If they want drivers to give it all they’ve got, shouldn’t they do everything they can to make sure that they have the opportunity to do so?
If NASCAR doesn’t want drivers manipulating the outcome of a race, then they shouldn’t do so either. And I don’t think you can make a solid argument that allowing them to continue running down laps under yellow was anything but a manipulation of the race, whether deliberate or not. NASCAR would be wise not to let it happen again.
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