Monster Of A Mess

NASCAR's intention to freeze the field when caution is displayed is without a doubt the right move. Safety is paramount and the "Gentlemen's Agreement" to slow down under caution wasn't working. But the execution has been, in short, pathetic.

The situation was at its worst on Sunday at Dover with an endless parade of caution laps while the eyes in the sky tried to figure out who was running where on the race track. When Ryan Newman, the leader, brought out the caution after spinning into the tire barriers at the end of pit road, all hell, literally, broke loose.

Who was on the lead lap at the time of caution? Who had pitted and left pit road while the green flag was still out? Who would start at the end of the longest line? Which driver would get the benefit of the ridiculous "Lucky Dog" rule? While these and other questions were being asked, and answered slowly, the cars paraded around the mile-long concrete oval under the yellow flag.

But it wasn't just the fans in the stands, who cascaded a long loud chorus of boos down to the track as the field slowly circled, that was upset. Several drivers took NASCAR to task afterward for the confusion including Matt Kenseth, who was involved in one of the day's numerous accidents.

"I think race fans should be mad," Kenseth said seething as he exited his car after the late race crash that knocked him from competition. "First, NASCAR spends 40 laps under caution screwing around for who knows what. Then a car blew up half a lap before we got (to the turn) and they never threw the caution. They just let it go green until we all rode down in there and wrecked. We've run two laps under yellow and haven't seen an ambulance. Glad I'm OK. I haven't seen anybody check me out yet."

The bizarre race, which featured two Talladega-sized crashes in addition to the timing and scoring problems, lasted almost five hours. Not exactly a stellar promotion of the NASCAR product, whether you paid for a seat in the stands or sat on the couch in front of the television. To say it's imperative the scoring problem be fixed immediately is an understatement.

I've asked this before and can't seem to get a good answer from anyone as to why it won't work, but why not just revert back to the last completed lap and line the field up single file for the next restart? Every short track in the country uses this logical solution to scoring during caution periods. Forget the telemetry (which we've been promised is coming for almost a year now) that will freeze the field immediately when the caution light is flipped. Fans can't see that and why leave yourself open to more scrutiny from the paying customer, many of which viewed Sunday's race as a motorized WWE event. Everyone knows where the cars were on the previously completed green flag lap.

As for many drivers' claims that NASCAR ignored the oil being layed down by Casey Mears' blown engine, which set the stage for the gigantic crash that took out more than a dozen cars, I'll plead the fifth. I wasn't at this weekend's race and could only see what looked like oil on the television broadcast. Maybe David Hoots and the boys in the tower saw something different.

But the scoring deal has to end and as is usually the case, the solution is so simple it's laughable. Which is what the Nextel Cup Series is becoming.



Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2004

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