By Jason Schultz
For the second time this season, an oily race track had an effect on the outcome of the race.
In Watkins Glen, at the August race, a track scattered with oil led to two passes for the lead on the final lap. When race leader Kyle Busch spun in the oil, it led to Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski battling it out for the win. Ambrose eventually slid to the victory.
Sunday in Phoenix, the main groove on the frontstretch was littered with oil from Danica Patrick’s wrecked car, and once the leaders hit the home stretch, they started slipping everywhere and a pile-up ensued. Point’s leader Brad Keselowski suffered damage in the wreck, but was able to cross the finish line successfully, finishing in sixth place. If NASCAR threw out the caution when Danica Patrick wrecked on the second to last lap, this subject would likely not be a point of discussion.
NASCAR wanted a green flag finish, and after an extended red flag under the last caution, NASCAR didn’t want to have another lengthy caution that prolonged the race. The result of that thought process, is a pile-up of cars scattered across the frontstretch. Since NASCAR didn’t throw the yellow with two laps to go, more “excitement” occurred on track. I don’t think many teams in the garage area consider torn up race cars “excitement.” Fans might have enjoyed the melee that formed on the final lap, but many teams in NASCAR certainly did not share that perspective.
Even with the wreck on the final lap, many drivers involved placed in the top-ten.
Ryan Newman finished fifth and may consider his finish successful, but the damage to his car was not a welcome site. The wreck started when Greg Biffle slid in the oil and got into Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch. Busch then shot down the track and hit Paul Menard, sending Menard into the back of Danica Patrick’s wrecked car which was moving slowly on the frontstretch. Menard’s impact to the back of Patrick’s car sent Patrick’s car up into the air. The car came back down, but the rear end of the car was absolutely destroyed.
Then, Ryan Newman got hit by Kurt Busch’s car, after Busch’s car hit Menard, pushing Newman into Mark Martin hard into the inside wall. Once the dust or smoke settled from the wreck, there were four-plus cars destroyed and sitting on the frontstretch.
If NASCAR wanted to create an exciting finish every week, as we have seen in two of the most “exciting” races of the year at Watkins Glen and Phoenix, they should just lay oil on the track before the final restart. Some of the decisions NASCAR is making are questionable and many teams who have to bring destroyed race cars back across the county would agree. NASCAR’s definition of excitement should be close, competitive racing – not cars slipping in oil coming to the checker. Phoenix could be called an “exciting” race but NASCAR’s decisions played a key role in the outcome of the event and therefore, NASCAR created the excitement.
Overall, some may think the oily track created “excitement” on the final lap, but in reality, it was a poor decision by NASCAR that created the “excitement” on the final lap of the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.