Human Error Causes Caution Light Snafu


Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, says the caution lights were unintentionally turned on before the finish Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)


BRISTOL, Tenn. - A long and bizarre day came to an unusual finish Sunday night when the caution lights were accidentally turned on from the flag stand and rain then prevented an attempt for a green-white-checkered finish.

A person in the flag stand leaned on the manual override switch, turning on the caution lights on lap 499, according to Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition.

Six seconds after the lights were turned on, the flag man - seeing the lights on -  waved the yellow flag, according to NASCAR’s review of the finish. Pemberton said that the flag man can wave the caution flag without a call from series officials in the tower if they see a proper reason. 

“We were scanning cars and spotters, and there's some of us in the tower that only heard it after the teams were talking about it because we were looking at other things around the racetrack,’’ Pemberton said.

The rain then arrived before the race could be restarted, giving Carl Edwards the victory.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished second but never got the chance to race his Roush Fenway Racing teammate for the win. Aric Almirola finished third. 

Edwards most likely would have won the race with the lead he had had there not been a caution. 

Since there was a caution for the malfunction, Stenhouse was ready to make his move on the restart.

“I was thinking that I would use the bumper if the opportunity was there,’’ Stenhouse said, laughing. “If you get the win, you’re in the Chase and you can let the rest take care of itself later. That’s what I was really thinking if we went back to green.

“Carl seemed to be a little loose as soon as we went back green (previously). I would have ran it in there pretty hard and he knows I would have.’’

Edwards said he knew what was likely coming if the race restated.

“It was going to be a battle,’’ Edwards said. “The way I envision it in my mind ... probably neither one of us would have made it back to the finish line. Ricky, he was being aggressive out there all night. I knew what was coming.’’

The rain prevented such dramatics.

The caution snafu did cause NASCAR to change the finishing order. NASCAR went back to when the caution lights flashed and froze the field. Pemberton said NASCAR only had to adjust three positions - placing Denny Hamlin sixth, Jeff Gordon seventh and Kasey Kahne eighth.

Pemberton said NASCAR will work to make sure the incident is not repeated.

“We learn a lot of lessons, and when we learn a lesson like this we'll go in and further investigate some things,’’ he said. “As you know, all the electronics that we've had and have installed in the trailers for freeze the field and all these other things, there's still ‑ you still have to integrate into the track facilities, so there's probably some things that we needed to do to better secure that area where the manual override is on the lights.’’ 

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