Caution: Is NASCAR now in show business?
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Brooklyn, MI (Sports Network) -
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?
Denny Hamlin put on one of the most dominating performances of his Sprint Cup Series career.
"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."
After the final restart with 14 laps to go, Hamlin pulled away from Kahne and then cruised to his series-leading fifth victory of the season. By the way, his margin of victory was 1.2 seconds, which was a heck of a lot better than a 10-second-plus blowout.
"If I don't win the race because maybe I get a bad restart or something, then probably I'm angry because I feel like NASCAR changed the outcome of the race," Hamlin added.
Michigan continued an ongoing debate on debris cautions that occur late in races. Are they warranted, or is NASCAR trying to liven up things in hopes of a thrilling finish?
NASCAR needs to thoroughly define to teams and fans its policy on debris cautions, especially ones that come in the closing laps.
Otherwise, the question of whether NASCAR is a sport or entertainment industry will remain prevalent.
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