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Monday, October 12, 2009

Are "Phantom cautions" a reality, and are they a bad thing?

Every so often, the isue of "phantom cautions" comes to the forefront in NASCAR.
This week, it was Kasey Kahne who threw out the charge after getting caught up in a big wreck after a caution.

Video did show that the caution in question this week was needed due to debris, but there have been many times in the past where a yellow comes out and debris is never shown, leaving the public to wonder whether it was just thrown to bunch up the cars and spice up a boring race.

Whether this actually happens will probably never be proven either way, but the discussion raises a philosophical question about racing: Is the concept of a phantom caution a bad thing?
Racing purists will say they are a disgrace, and everything should be up to the drivers.

But some fans, especially those who have attended caution-free races with all the excitement of watching paint dry, might be OK with the idea of these phantom caution.

People go to a race to enjoy it, not be lulled to sleep, they would argue.
Take for example the past weekend's Indycar season finale, the first-ever caution-free Indycar race. There was some passing up front, but the cars were never bunched up at all during the race once the green flag flew.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if a race at Homestead was progressing in a similar way in NASCAR, and it appeared the final race of the Cup season would be caution-free and the cars were all spread out, NASCAR might throw a caution.
How would I feel about this? To be completely honest, it would probably depend on whether my driver got screwed over in the process.

But I can understand that a fan at the racetrack hoping to see an exciting race for the title, going right down the last lap with the top contenders battling for every position, would probably prefer to see the caution.

As a rule, I don't want NASCAR to intervene in races, as that discredits the results of the race in the minds of the fans and the whole "professional wrestling" comparisons begin. But deep down, I can relate to a fan's desire to see a competitive race. As long as the yellow isn't thrown to favor a specific driver, and is simply to improve the racing, an argument can be made that it makes the racing better.

I have no doubt that phantom cautions have been thrown in the past, and most likely will fly in the future. And in a world that's never black and white, it's very debatable whether they are a completely bad thing.

Hall of Fame week
On Wednesday, the first five inductees to NASCAR's Hall of Fame will be named. In my view, the inductees should be Big Bill France, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty, David Pearson, and Junior Johnson.

Unfortunately, all signs point to Bill France Jr. making it in on the first ballot, leaving Pearson out until next year. That's a little too much of the France family for me in one induction class, but it's probably going to happen.

Also the fifth spot is up for grabs, and Johnson might not make the cut either. You can bet your life, though that Earnhardt, Petty and Big Bill will make it.

Congrats to Franchitti
After a very disappointing detour in NASCAR, Dario Franchitti returned to Indycar in 2009, and has now clinched his second title in three years (technically, two straight for him if you discount the year he was out). I think it's clear where he belongs, so don't look for Franchitti to make any moves away from that series any time soon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The simple fact is this: ESPN when they took over coverage promised to show the reason for every caution that came out. They dropped that when they realized there we phantom cautions and NASCAR didn't want them to talk about it. Now we rarely see a reason for caution.

Too many races now have a caution with 20-50 laps to go depending on the size of the track, for "debris on the back stretch" that is never found. NASCAR aggressively controls every other aspect of the racing on track, so phantom cautions are a fact of NASCAR life.

The good news? If you record the race on your pvr, you can skip all the way to about 50 laps to go, and see all the racing you need to see, because the rest of it wasn't important. NASCAR should just run 30 lap features and get it over with.

October 13, 2009 at 12:01 PM 

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