Drivers discuss green-flag finishes


July 6, 2004

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For stock car racing fans there seems to be nothing more disappointing than a race ending under caution. Thrilling side-by-side finishes have often been the norm in major league stock car racing and a late caution flag ends those possibilities.

NASCAR has worked hard recently to set up green-flag finishes when it can, announcing prior to each event at what point it will red flag a race in order to avoid a yellow-flag finish. But it’s not always possible.

The newest reported proposal is a one-time four-lap green-flag finish. Instead of red flagging the race, the cars would stay under caution and try to end with a green flag-green flag-white flag-checkered flag finish.

Here is what some competitors had to say:

BRANDON WHITT, Driver, #38 Cure Autism Now/Werner Ladder Truck:

“The Truck Series has always had a ‘green-white-checkered’ rule, so all of our races end under green. That’s just the way the series works. But it’s probably a little easier to do that with a 200-mile race than it is a 500-mile race. We just don’t have that many fuel-mileage races.

“For the fans, it’s a better deal. For pure racing, it’s a better deal. In the long run, yeah, a guaranteed green-flag finish is the best way to go. But, again, a lot of that depends on where you are at the time. If you are leading, it stinks. If not, it’s a great idea.”

KEN SCHRADER, Driver, #49 Schwan’s Home Service Dodge:

“They tell us 500 miles, or 400 miles or 500 laps or whatever. That ought to be the deal. It sounds more like a pickup game or something – ‘Hey, I know we said we’d play to 20 points but let’s go to 25’ or something like that. The football game not that exciting? Play a fifth quarter.

“We base everything we do on that race distance. That’s our base. I can see the fans wanting green flag finishes and I don’t blame them for wanting that – and I don’t blame NASCAR for wanting to give it to them. But it’s like changing the rules in the middle of the race – not even the middle, the end of the race. It makes it difficult for the race teams to figure, and it can easily change the outcome in a way that is probably not going to be fair in the long run.

“Nobody is bigger believer in giving the fans what they want than me. But we need to make sure we’re doing it in a way that is not only good for them, but good for everybody else.”

JEFF GREEN, Driver, #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge:

“The way they are talking about doing things now, I don’t really have a problem with it. You have four green flag laps at the end of the race and you have one shot to get it done then. If you do, great. If not, you finish under caution.

“Circumstances dictate how you feel. The first time I am really close on fuel and we go an extra four laps, I’m probably not going to like it very much. If I am leading the race, I am probably not going to like it very much. But if I have plenty of fuel and I’m second place on back, yeah, I’m really in favor of it.

“I understand the fans wanting a green flag finish, and they should have that. We just have to be careful not to go over the line accomplishing that, and I think this particular plan is right where it should be.”

KYLE PETTY, Driver, #45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge:

“I don’t think NASCAR needs to make a rule so that all races finish under the green flag. There are no guarantees in racing. There is no guarantee that when you buy a ticket to a race that you are going to see a green flag finish. It’s like the weather. There is no controlling the weather on race day, and there is no controlling the outcome of a race.

“A fan buys a ticket to a baseball game, but is he guaranteed to see nine innings played? If it rains the game could be stopped after six, but the game is over. The deal behind sports is you never know what is going to happen. It might rain after six innings, or the game might go 20 innings. It might be decided by a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and it might be decided by a 20-run first inning.

“That’s the same thing we have in racing. If the caution flag comes out at the end of the race, whether it be for a wreck or whatever, the race should finish under the yellow flag. That’s the way it is. There are no promises from NASCAR or the tracks that you are going to see a green flag finish, and there shouldn’t be.”

JOHN ANDRETTI, NASCAR Nextel Cup driver:

“Race distance is race distance, and I think that’s the way we should continue to look at it. The standards NASCAR has gone by are the most fair for the competitors, and most fair for the fans too. Now, when the yellow comes out after a certain point late in the race – and everybody knows what that point is before the race starts – that’s the end of it.

“It doesn’t mean the wrong guy won by any stretch. A Winston Cup race is tough enough to lead at any point. If you have the lead with five laps to go, you’ve pretty much earned the win. To extend the race distance when everything is on the line from fuel mileage to other circumstances, that would be unfair. That would change who should win the race, and that would not be fair. After four hours of racing, a green-white-checkered is no better way to determine a winner than what four hours of racing have already done.”

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