There’s a lot going down in NASCAR these days. TV ratings are down, general interest in NASCAR is down, no matter how the auto racing machine tries to spin it. Between management miscalculations and a general cultural change with respect to automobile racing, there are troubling signs for NASCAR.
As the smoke clears on the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season, there’s one thing that went down that was good. Those dreaded debris cautions. According to this little nugget seen at Jayski, cautions brought on by trash on the track were down 58.9 percent. 51 debris cautions flew in 2016. In 2017, that number shrank to 21.
For years, fans have decried debris cautions, many of dubious appearance. Fans have accused- and perhaps rightly so- NASCAR of looking for anything to manipulate the quality of the racing by throwing a debris caution to bunch up a strung out field. How many times have we seen a debris caution and wondered “Where is it?” Sometimes the TV cameras would find it, other times, it was left to the imagination. NASCAR has been oft-accused of pulling strings to create a desirable outcome, and there have been those who have pointed to debris caution as one of those methods.
Sure, if you have sheet metal, springs, tire debris and other potentially dangerous items on the track, you have to get that stuff off. No one would argue that. But how many times have we seen debris cautions for hot dog wrappers, water bottles and foam from roll bars? A few times too many. Drivers in danger of falling further behind have done it more than once.
Now, it’s not because NASCAR has finally woke up and addressed the questionable race stoppages. The stage breaks that are now a part of NASCAR racing provide track crews ample time to go out and clean the track. Even if you don’t care for stage racing, you have to like this effect.
Interestingly enough, the same article informs us cautions in general were up. Could that be the result of harder racing earlier in an event in an effort to grab stage points? That would be an interesting study. We learn that there were 296 cautions in the MENCS in 2017, compared to 269 in 2016. In 2015, there was 298, so it’s really hard to draw any hard and fast conclusions based off of that data.
These findings aren’t a silver bullet for NASCAR in terms of repairing its image or improving negative fan perceptions, but it is one nice step. Let’s hope it continues and other positive steps are taken.