NASCAR: Why Can’t NASCAR Eliminate Phantom Cautions?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Sunday was stopped twice for “debris cautions” that turned out to be shop rags on the track. Why can’t NASCAR figure this out?

Week after week we see cautions during races that influence the outcome of races. We have seen water bottles, roll bar padding and other items thrown on the track that garner a yellow flag. Each time it happens and we can see it from our couch it brings the credibility of NASCAR into question. With all the technology employed by NASCAR around the track, why can’t they get the debris cautions right?

Dale Earnhardt Jr tweeted about it Sunday after the race at Sonoma

To be honest about it, the number of “phantom cautions” seems to be down this season but they still happen. What makes it so hard to understand is NASCAR now has computer systems that can identify when a crew member comes over the pit wall when a car is a full stall away, or a tire gets loose for half a second. Yet for some reason with all the track workers, NASCAR officials and cameras everywhere we still have cautions for rags on the track!?

When the camera gets sight of the item and we all can see that it is a rag of some sort, how is it NASCAR can’t figure it out? There have been several circumstances that the timing of one of these cautions has ruined a day for someone or helped a popular driver. Would AJ Allmendinger have gotten that speeding penalty on pit road if he was not pitting with everyone else? It appeared to help and hurt Tony Stewart with the timing of the flags. First it happened just after he pits giving him the lead, then one when he was leading that bunched the field again.

Related Story: Tony Stewart Ends Winless Drought at Sonoma

Bad calls happen in every sport. The NBA has been fighting it for years, and it reared its ugly head again in the NBA Finals this month. NASCAR though has a big credibility problem with its fans, and every time this happens it makes it worse. We see it all the time when a race goes on a long green flag run and the field is stretched out, all the sudden a caution for debris that is never identified. The guys in the booth are not even able to tell us what it is, but it stopped the race long enough for a commercial break and several sponsor plugs.

It would help if the TV broadcasters demanded to actually see the debris after it is collected from the track. It would put pressure on NASCAR to only throw the caution for real safety reasons and reassure the fans it was not artificial. The NBA now has reports made public about the officials performance in the last two minutes of every game. NASCAR just needs to show why the race is stopped and the questions go away. Until that happens there will still be questions if NASCAR is throwing the caution for safety or entertainment purposes.