The Monster Energy Cup Series drivers were at Michigan International Speedway for the Firekeepers Casino 400 race on Sunday. The race saw a few cautions but there were two in particular that really ruffled everyone’s feathers–inspiring Dale Earnhardt Jr and Tony Stewart to express their discontent with NASCAR and their debris cautions on Twitter.
The first of caution for “debris” on the track occurred with 21 laps to go, and this was the precursor to what happened next. Upon the restart, another caution came out immediately when Stewart-Haas driver Clint Bowyer was pushed and ended up slamming into the wall.
The issues? Firstly, the mysterious debris took a suspiciously long amount of time to clear and caused a five-lap caution – one lap longer than was needed to clear the track after the final wreck a few laps later. Not only that, but Bowyer may not have sustained damage had the restart never happened following the debris caution.
It looked like it was going to be a race that would come down to fuel mileage. However, Bowyer’s mishap and subsequent caution led to a crazy restart and yet another caution. Blaney had gotten extremely loose and drivers piled up behind him, but Stewart-Haas driver Danica Patrick received the most damage as she got into the wall – ending her day.
Dale Jr had this to say on his postrace Periscope session:
“I just wish, with the stages, I don’t know why they’ve got to throw so many damn debris yellows. The purpose of having stages was really because the networks want more cautions, more restarts because people tune in when we have a caution. They tune in a for a restart. That’s the whole reason why we have the stages to try to create a little more drama, so I don’t know why we keep throwing the damn debris yellows and stuff.’’
Before then taking to Twitter:
It was quite humorous. There were about 12 plastic bags on the track at one time. Did the 12 little bags emerge from the giant trash bag? 🤔
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 19, 2017
Understandably, Tony Stewart was also upset given that both of these yellow flags would end up involving three Stewart-Haas Racing drivers in crashes during the restarts. He also took to Twitter to vent:
It’s a shame that so many drivers and teams day was ruined by the results of another “debris” caution towards the end of the race today.
— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) June 18, 2017
NASCAR answered to the complaints on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. He defended their decisions to throw out the yellow flag with the following:
“If we are actually able to identify what it is and feel like it’s something that is OK to leave out there, then we’ll do so. But if we can’t identify what it is exactly, and it could pose something dangerous, then we’ll usually, or almost always, error on the side of caution and safety and put the caution out in those circumstances. Sometimes it’s untimely and a little bit unfortunate, but we do have to do our job and make sure that everybody is safe.’’
Miller was then asked why NASCAR didn’t bring the caution out for the Cowboy hat that had blown onto the track. He finished with this:
“We saw the cowboy hat. We knew it was straw, and that it would disintegrate if somebody would hit it. Obviously, that was right in front of us. Clearly, we could tell what it is, and we opted to keep it green because we knew that it didn’t really pose any kind of a safety risk.’’
Clearly, mysterious and phantom cautions will still continue to haunt drivers in their pursuits for victories. Whether you agree with them or not, and whether you believe that NASCAR brings out debris cautions to “spice things up” a little bit – we can probably all agree that it’s best to err on the side of caution to ensure the safety of drivers and fans.