Somehow in between the 2020 and 2021 season NASCAR has found a new love for the caution flag. They have always had an issue with cautions and drivers being able to manipulate them (most notably Clint Bowyer and the famous “Spingate”) to gain an advantage by slowing the rest of the field down and either saving themselves a lap down or just getting closer to the leader. These are issues NASCAR has addressed and held drivers accountable for, but have they ever looked at themselves for manipulating cautions? This season NASCAR has thrown many cautions across every series that have seemingly been unnecessary, or last year were not caused cautions.
The first major caution incident came in just the second race of the season at the Daytona Road Course. There was rain moving in, which is not an issue on the road courses due to Goodyear giving NASCAR a rain tire for the road courses. Usually when there’s rain NASCAR allows the drivers to choose when they go to the pits for their rain tires. This year NASCAR decided to throw caution and therefore let everyone get on the new tires, the only issue was everyone pitted for slicks and the race restarted as normal. This made the leader Chase Elliott get brought back to the field after being 3 second ahead and cost him the easy race win.
NASCAR has had another blunder with cautions this week at Kansas when they chose to not throw caution for a tire rolling into the infield during green flag pit stops. The purpose of the caution flag is to slow drivers down so they avoid the danger that is on the track, NASCAR throwing the caution meant that there was a danger to the drivers and crews, but only after the pit cycle ruining teams strategies. Why even throw the caution, why wait 15 laps? NASCAR seemed like they did not want to pin all their big name drivers down a lap and have Chris Buscher lead a race. If it was Denny leading would they still do it?
NASCAR has to stop forcing cautions, or give us a more open explanation as to why they are putting the yellow out. Their only reason was that they had to go get the tire, but why wait, to cause drama. Letting the whole field get fresh tires and then stacking them back up towards the end of the race caused a lot of drama. Chris Bell spun after an aggressive bump from Suarez causing a big pile up that yet again re-stacked the field causing a dramatic Kyle Busch finish. All we ask for is come clarity NASCAR.