NASCAR now in show business, manufactures finishes UPDATE Debris, or not debris? That is the question NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin has been asking after a late-race caution for debris possibly cost him a victory in Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway.
Hamlin put on one of the most dominating performances of his Sprint Cup Series career at Michigan. Leading a race-high 123 laps, Hamlin held a near 10-second advantage before NASCAR displayed the yellow flag for what appeared to be rubber-like debris on the track with 18 laps remaining.
Unlike last week's race at Pocono, Michigan featured no major drama, at least until that time. Two of the four cautions were for debris. Perhaps the only theatrical moments at Michigan were actors Adam Sandler and Kevin James providing a rather entertaining command to start engines and Red Bull Racing teammates Casey Mears and Scott Speed making contact and crashing one-quarter of the way into the 400-mile race.
So why not throw in a little bit of drama towards the end of a somewhat boring race? "I understand this is show business," Hamlin said. "I didn't see any debris...We typically get them every single week. I'm not going to say it's accepted, but what can you do?"
While Hamlin debated NASCAR's reason for the caution, second-place finisher Kasey Kahne felt it was justified. "It was a big piece of debris back there, and I saw it," Kahne said. "I felt good at the time, because I thought we might have a shot."06/15/10 NASCAR President Mike Helton taped a segment earlier today for tonight’s NASCAR Race Hub on SPEED (7:30 p.m. ET). Among the topics he discussed – the late-race caution from Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan and the apparent escalation of on-track confrontations between drivers. Below are a few select quotes from tonight’s show:
NASCAR Race Hub: Can you clarify the circumstances behind the last caution (of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from Michigan)?
Mike Helton: It was a debris caution. I’m not sure what beyond the circumstances of that you might be asking … and I heard a little bit of the chatter after the race was over with. The fact of the matter on a caution … it doesn’t matter if its lap 10 or lap 190 of 200, the first and foremost concern we have is for the safety of the drivers. Through the course of an event, we’ll get input – sometimes it comes from the drivers, sometimes it comes from the observers that we’ve got around the race track, sometimes it comes from one of the 18 or 20 cameras that we have access to through the control tower of the event. When someone, on a piece of debris, which is unique from an engine that blows up and drops oil, or an accident that is obvious to fans and to other drivers … when someone tells us about a piece of debris, more often than not, we can quantify whether its there or its not, and if it is there, we can quantify what it is, based on the things that I mentioned that we have access to. If there is any doubt, though, we are going to call a debris caution. If we see something and cannot tell what it is, we’re going to err on the side of safety. But there is always something there when we have a debris caution. A lot of times, we’re told there is debris on the race track, that we don’t throw it because we can’t find it anywhere.
NASCAR Race Hub: Your colleague, NASCAR VP of Competition Robin Pemberton, said “Have at it boys” before the season started. Whether it’s been a coincidence or not, there have been a lot issues between drivers on the track this year. Is it just coincidence and do you expect it to continue into the second half of the season?
Mike Helton: I think it’s not just coincidence. I think it’s an attitude that the drivers and the teams now believe in. A couple of years ago, we told them, ‘Look, loosen up … be your own character. We’ll back off of some of the regulations that we had imposed on you that may have intimidated you. We don’t want that to happen.’ This year, we got even more precise about it. We told the guys in private meetings and in the town hall meetings we held in January, ‘Hey, we were serious about that a couple of years ago. We want the character of the sport to be there through you and through the crewmembers up and down pit road.’ So, I think that a lot of it has to do with the confidence of us looking them in the face and saying, ‘It’s OK to be you out there … we’re not going to react like we might have three or four years ago.’ Now, there is a line you can cross, but we want you to get at it. We want you to race at the level that you expected to race at when you came into the sport. And I think that is what we are seeing on the race track right now.”
To see the complete interview, please tune in tonight to NASCAR Race Hub on SPEED.