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NASCAR Didn’t Play Games with Kurt Busch in the Auto Club 400

NASCAR Didn’t Play Games with Kurt Busch in the Auto Club 400

by March 23, 2015 2 comments

Photo credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images

FONTANA, Calif. — Seriously, what is it with the Auto Club 400 that brings out the claws from NASCAR fans?

Last year, there were tire failures aplenty that had fans (and drivers) pointing the finger at Goodyear for bringing an inferior compound to Auto Club Speedway when in reality teams were taking liberties with the amount of pressure within the tire.

Accusations flew at the conclusion of today’s running of the Auto Club 400 – an event won by Brad Keselowski – that debris cautions near the end of the race thrown by NASCAR were thrown on purpose to rob Kurt Busch of a win.

You know, Kurt Busch – the guy who is currently racing in NASCAR and has been granted a waiver to participate in the Chase by the sanctioning body after being suspended for the first three races of the season due to his involvement in a domestic violence case. Yes, that Kurt Busch.

Hogwash.

Apparently, NASCAR’s perfectly content with letting Busch compete in their events and contend for their most prestigious championship, but they draw the line at letting the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet compete for race victories.

Again, hogwash.

At the root of the cause for the accusations of a potential fix by NASCAR was a debris caution with two laps to go that flew while Busch was sailing away towards the white flag over teammate Kevin Harvick. For Busch supporters, Busch’s impending win was to be a triumphant moment for the driver formerly dubbed ‘The Outlaw’ after spending the early part of the 2015 season sidelined by suspension due to a non-racing issue.

But, NASCAR just had to meddle with the race and throw a ‘phantom debris’ caution – except for the fact that there wasn’t anything ghostly about the debris that was said to be in between Turn 4. Why is that? Because it was clearly shown on FOX’s broadcast with the network’s commentary unit even making note of the piece of metal lying at the bottom of the racing surface.

Even when evidence of the caution in Turn 4 was displayed on the broadcast (or after the fact via the internet), some claimed that NASCAR should still have not thrown the yellow flag as the debris was shown outside of the main racing groove, which, to be fair, it was.

However, we can not be selective with our safety concerns. Period.

After a horrific crash with a non-SAFER barrier covered wall in February’s season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona for Kyle Busch that left the 29-time Sprint Cup race winner with a broken leg and a fractured foot, NASCAR fans and personalities were very vocal with their criticism regarding the lack of a SAFER barrier – as they should have been.

But, while we’re raising our voices on the lack of SAFER barriers, we can not simply shrug our shoulders and say ‘race on’ when a piece of debris is above the white line and on the racing surface, not below the apron or on the grass. It may not have been near the wall – the preferred line at that point of the race – but it was still on the racing surface, making it a safety hazard.

Just to note, I’m completely onboard with the criticisms of a lack of transparency regarding debris cautions as I too would love to see the culprit for each caution be shown on television, but this is not always possible. However, in this case, the debris just so happened to be caught on camera. It’s a rather cut and dry case if you ask me.

In conclusion, just because a driver did not have the race end in their favor, does not necessarily mean that the sanctioning body had some ulterior motive and/or were purposefully trying to screw over said driver on-track.

If you’re a No. 41 supporter, there is plenty to cheer for this year as this new Busch-Tony Gibson [crew chief] combination has proven to be an excellent and efficient pairing. In all five races that they have been together (dating back to November 2014), they have collaborated for a top-11 performance.

The No. 41 team showcased plenty of speed throughout the weekend and will no doubt continue to do so through the rest of the year. Yes, Busch may not have won today’s race, but you can bet that he will grab a win before the Chase cutoff.

So, let’s put down the pitchforks and torches and unwrap the aluminum foil from our craniums, shall we?

Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

2 Comments so far

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  1. christopherleone
    #1 christopherleone 23 March, 2015, 13:43

    I’m with you on the debris caution. Nothing phantom about it. What bothers me, though, is that second attempt at a GWC, with the Biffle wreck. If NASCAR called that the way they’ve called numerous races in the recent past, they would’ve thrown the caution just before turn 1, the race would have been on it, and Kurt would have won. Instead, for the first time in what feels like forever, they got to race back to the line. Far more fair and entertaining—but an outlier compared to the precedents that have been set.

    Like you said, “we can’t be selective with our safety concerns,” right?

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    • Kyle Pokrefky
      Kyle Pokrefky Author 23 March, 2015, 14:32

      There was not a truly great angle of the Biffle spin, but from my perspective, by the time when he initially went around on the frontstretch the leaders/majority of the field were crossing or past the start/finish line. Biffle was up by the wall as only a handful of cars were approaching and they successfully passed him by the time Biffle completed his spin.

      After completing his spin, Biffle was clear on the race track by at least over a mile as the next car (which by that point was Keselowski) was exiting Turn 2. With no debris on the track, there was a very large window for the No. 16 to right itself and carry on out of harm’s way, which it did before the leaders hit Turn 3.

      There was only a small period of time for NASCAR to throw the caution and secure the victory for Busch as Keselowski had already inched ahead of him before entering Turn 2. That being said, I don’t know where the scoring lines are at at Auto Club Speedway, so even though Keselowski was physically ahead of Busch by that point, he may not have been officially scored that way.

      If NASCAR truly were trying to take the win away from Busch (not saying that that is what you believe), they would have thrown the caution off of Turn 2 after Keselowski was clear of Busch and while Biffle was still stopped on the race track.

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