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March 16, 2018

NASCAR Killed the Daytona 500 Excitement with Last Lap Caution

I’ll be honest. I didn’t get to see the Daytona 500. Instead I was covering Texas baseball who swept Minnesota in a four-game series this weekend.

But I did follow it on Twitter. And I saw it all go down on that last lap.

With Joey Logano leading, the “Big One” happened about halfway down the backstretch. Even though the cars finishing the race would have had ample time and space to slow down to avoid the wrecked cars, NASCAR decided a few seconds after the wreck to throw the yellow flag and therefore finishing the race without a last dash to the line and giving the 500 to Logano.

Now, there’s a really good chance that Logano still ends up being the winner even if NASCAR kept the race green to the end, but throwing the caution flag robbed the fans, both casual and diehards, of a possibly awesome finish to the “Super Bowl” of NASCAR.

The biggest question surrounding the decision to bring out the caution on the last lap is why. Why did they feel the need to end the race there and not wait a quarter of a lap for the race to finish under green. Aside from the cars in and behind the wreck, nobody was in serious danger. And the cars that were ahead of the wreck would have at least half of a lap to slow down to a safe speed to avoid the disabled vehicles. I mean, yes, it’s one thing if it’s lap 30 or even the second-to-last lap where the caution has to come out (and the race won’t end), but with it being the last lap, it just seems odd.

Especially considering that in 2007, when there was a wreck in the field coming to the checkered flag that ended up with Clint Bowyer finishing the race on his hood, they held off on the yellow, which allowed Kevin Harvick to win.

And because of that, the fans ended up losing out. After a couple of hours of not-that-exciting racing, which after what had happened in Speedweeks prior to that race was probably a good thing, the most exciting part of the race was taken away. It was incredibly disappointing to see that NASCAR threw the yellow flag and I bet it’s even more disappointing for those who paid good money to see the race live.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a good chance that Logano still wins. It seems that with this new Gen 6 car, the leader has the advantage down the stretch in restricter plate races in blocking other drivers trying to get by him. That’s what Dale Earnhardt Jr. did last year to win the 500.

But there are no guarantees in life and there’s certainly no guarantees that Logano does hold on to the lead to win. And at any rate, there’s a frantic dash for the last quarter of a lap to see who can get back to the line first and to settle it all on the track, the way it should be.

The drivers might not have been robbed with the premature finish, but the fans certainly were.

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