PHOTO: CBS

Late race cautions where the race can’t resume has caused criticism by racing fans

A race without a green flag finish isn’t what the fans desire. Those are the rules in many racing sanctioning bodies across the globe. For over a decade, late race cautions are among the complaints I’ve seen over the years watching NASCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series.

There have been times where I was upset the race ended under caution and wonder what would’ve happened if the race continued. Often, it ruins a fan’s opinion of the race because it didn’t end under green.

The last few weeks in both series, the race ending cautions has dissatisfied fans and demand for change as if we’ve had enough already.

Look at last Sunday’s race at Dover for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for example, fans were outraged about the overtime line. By the rulebook, if the drivers past the overtime line, the race is over.

Pretty simple, right? Not this race as it was one of the rare times a Cup race ended under caution because of the rule and has caused backlash from race fans.

The cause of the caution was Ty Dillon getting loose in turn two, hitting the wall and started a nine-car pile-up as race leader Jimmie Johnson had already past the overtime line before the caution came out.

Fans complained and wanted the rule to be abolished and reinstate the three attempts of the green-white-checkered rule. Some have said drivers should race back to the line if the white flag came out but for safety concerns, don’t expect seeing that change happening.

My process of this issue was, why not do what ARCA has been doing? Their rule is the race finishes under green no matter how many laps past race distance it takes to make it possible.

Only way it would end under caution is weather, darkness, time constraints and safety concerns. Other than those examples, its guaranteed to have a green flag finish.

Dover wasn’t the only example of fans outcry for change, superspeedway tracks like Daytona and Talladega has also seen controversial race ending cautions in the Xfinity Series.

Last season, two races ended under caution as the leaders were coming to the checkered flag because of multi-car collisions.

The first one was at Talladega April 30, 2016 when fans were angry that Brennan Poole was robbed from a win because the yellow light came out before he crossed the finish line. Elliott Sadler was declared the winner and Poole finished third.

Two months later at Daytona, Aric Almirola and Justin Allgaier battled for the win entering turn four but the caution came out for a wreck on the backstretch despite the accident happening behind the two leaders.

The anger was because it eliminated a potential photo finish fans could have a cold one and discuss about for years to come.

In both cases, those cautions came out on the final lap and out of harm’s way.

What upsets me about those cautions was if the 2007 Daytona 500 ended under green despite mayhem happening behind Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin, how come fans couldn’t get the same courtesy?

Safety may have a lot to do with the controversial finishes but sometimes we just don’t get what we want and it has rubbed people the wrong way.

Sometimes we as race fans including myself, are spoiled. We wished we can have photo finishes every week but it doesn’t happen all the time. Each race has its own different story that makes auto racing more unique than any other sport.

There will be races that’ll be anticlimactic and others will be runaway victories. At least NASCAR fans should be thankful the possibility of ending a race under green can be possible with the overtime format.

IndyCar are still “old fashion” when it comes to race finishes and it has recently received criticism. Their format is if a caution comes out because of an accident past five laps to go, it’ll end under caution.

Saturday’s thrilling race at Texas Motor Speedway ended under caution after Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato attempted a bold pass on leader Will Power and second-place Scott Dixon until Sato hit the grass and collected Dixon with five laps remaining. The race only had nine of 22 cars running at the finish and damages were up to over a million dollars.

To no surprise, the race didn’t resume as Power coasted at pace car speed and won the race under caution. This was the second notable race where an IndyCar race ended under caution.

Last year, Dixon won at Phoenix under caution conditions when the final caution came out with two laps remaining.

It left the NBC Sports commentators confused, thinking there will be a two-lap shootout but again, there’s no such thing as green-white-checkered. Rules are rules and we didn’t see if Dixon could hold off the other drivers if we had another restart.

As expected, race fans were upset it ended under caution rather than stopping the race to clean up the mess or go past race distance and have at least one more restart.

Personally, it’s refreshing to see a racing series who doesn’t rely on gimmicks and stick to the advertised distance. It makes the sport a bit organic in that regard because that’s what racing used to be, the daunting challenge of making it to the advertised distance. No overtimes required.

However, there have been times IndyCar fans got their wish of having one last restart. It took place at Belle Isle June 4 after both James Hinchcliffe and Spencer Pigot stopped with five laps remaining. IndyCar stopped the race to clean up oil and removed both cars off the track and had a three-lap shootout.

Many applauded the decision, others weren’t pleased because it felt like IndyCar tried to copy NASCAR by having one last restart instead of ending under yellow.

I’m one of those that didn’t mind the race stoppage because on a road or street course, five laps under yellow and would feel like an eternity. It wasn’t an accident, just cars losing engines and in the way of other drivers.

Now the situation at Texas, a red flag would’ve been fine it but the number of laps left and possibly having another big wreck in an already attrition race, I applaud their decision of ending the race rather than taking risks by having one more restart on a fast and maddening track like Texas.

I agree it leaves fans disappointed not witnessing another dramatic finish but again, circumstances dictate outcomes. I’d rather have drivers make it in one piece and put on a great show rather than seeing them hurt.

IndyCar’s format is no different than NASCAR prior to 2004 where if a caution comes out before five laps to go, the option of red flagging the race was available (ex. 1993 Winston 500 and 2002 Daytona 500).

Sometimes, they’ll try to have a quick yellow—pending of the cause of the yellow or the amount of time it takes to clear the track—and have a one lap shootout (ex. 1985 Daytona 500 and 1997 Pepsi 400).

It has created great moments but sometimes, the caution may come out too late where there wouldn’t be enough time to restart the race.

People may ask, what happened to that rule? 2004 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega happened.

With five laps to go, Brian Vickers spun and collected Ricky Rudd in turn three. It left some debris on the track and the race didn’t resume as the last four laps finished under caution conditions.

Raging fans booed, threw beer bottles and toilet papers to show their vitriol towards winner Jeff Gordon and NASCAR. After the fiasco, the sport introduced the green-white-checkered format we have today and still has its flaws.

Either way, fans will find a way to vent because there wasn’t a green flag finish which is a shame.

Next time, if a caution ends a race, don’t let one moment ruin an overall opinion of the race. It’s not easy but doable if patience is part of fan’s vocabulary.

Published by Luis Torres

I'm a graduate from the University of Idaho, currently pursuing the dream of becoming a motorsports media personnel.

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