Don’t be too hard on NASCAR

Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images
A view of the Sparks Energy 300 during the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway.

By Justin Melillo
Staff Reporter
May 1, 2016

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

It’s not every day that a decision with safety in mind determines who goes to the playoffs. Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 1 JR Motorsports Camaro, won Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega SuperSpeedway, but not by getting back to the line first. NASCAR awarded Sadler the victory over JRM teammate Justin Allgaier and the presumed winner, Brennan Poole, who finished third after the caution flag flew just a few hundred feet before the start/finish line.

Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images
Brennan Poole's No. 48 on the final lap of the Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Sadler, not Poole, will qualify for the Chase for the XFINITY Cup, and by rule, the accolades were awarded fairly. Brennan Poole will see his day in victory lane sooner than later, but today, the winner is a call to attempt to keep drivers safe. Looking at why the caution was thrown just before the start/finish line, NASCAR’s first thought should always be safety, and for that, the call was truly in their best judgement.

Some fans won’t be happy that they were “cheated” out of a race to the checkered flag, but entertainment should never come before safety. NASCAR had to make a knee jerk decision on whether to push the button or let it end naturally. Nobody knows how anything will truly play out, but if they feel that putting out the caution could help drivers be safe, that’s their jurisdiction. Of course, seeing Joey Logano nose it into the outside wall at over 150 mph would make anyone cringe, and to be fair, NASCAR has to look at where the entire field is in relation to the wreck, not just the leaders. It was truly unfortunate that Blake Koch had nowhere to go. It’s a relief that everyone walked away and nobody is talking about injury, or worse. The call to throw the caution is tricky, being that it was so close to the start/finish line. This happened three years ago at the same track, and many fans, including myself in the grandstands, were outraged with the call to give Regan Smith the win over Kasey Kahne. It was a much longer distance to the line back in 2013 than it was this year, but the consistency is there, and NASCAR should be applauded for that and their mindset on safety. Last week, the chatter was all about lug nuts and safety, and after Tony Stewart blasted the series leadership about the decision at the beginning of 2015 to let teams put less than all five lug nuts on, the rules were quickly updated, citing concerns over safety as reasoning. When it all comes down to it, NASCAR is the governing body that is in charge of making the calls that determine races. It’s up to the officials to decide when calls need to be made, and that can’t be an easy burden. If throwing a caution gives us less of a chance of tragedy, then it will always be the right thing to do.
Did NASCAR make the right call Saturday?
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