NASCAR officials say they have to do a better job after a 29-lap caution left fans and competitors confused and frustrated Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Officials plan to meet today to dissect why it took so long to get the running order set.
“We acknowledge that we need to do a better job in those circumstances,’’ said Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition, Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.’’
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, tweeted after Sunday’s race that “if we knew amount of time-would have gone red flag.’’
As to why the race wasn’t stopped to sort out the running order, Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “We didn’t think it would take as long as it ultimately did. There was a point in there where a red flag may have been appropriate. We kind of got past that and had what we had and managed it the best we could from there.’’
Instead of the field being stopped, cars circled the .526-mile track at about 35 mph. Officials worked to determine the order after the caution flag waved on Lap 358 in the middle of green-flag pit stops.
Among the issues, Miller and Richard Buck, Cup series director, who talked to the media after the race, cited:
— The caution came during a green-flag pit cycle where some cars had pitted and some had not.
— Compounding the situation is that a car typically loses at least one lap on a green-flag pit stop.
— Leader AJ Allmendinger, who had not pitted, ran out of fuel and had to pit when pit road still was closed.
— Determining which car was eligible for the free pass (it was Jeff Gordon)
— Determining which cars were eligible to pass the pace car and fall in line behind the leader.
“It was such a unique situation that we almost had to look at each car to make sure we were doing right by each and every car in the field,’’ Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It took longer than it should have.’’
NASCAR officials said they used timing and scoring data with video.
“Usually in those circumstances, a group of cars will fall into a block … but this had so many elements to it and us having the responsibility we had to make sure we got it right, it took longer than it should have, but in the end I think we got it right and feel good about that,’’ Miller said.
As series officials tried to sort out all the issues, teams were confused. Crew chief Chad Knaus was in disbelief that Kyle Busch was on the lead lap, saying on the team’s radio that this was “the biggest freebie in history.’’
Denny Hamlin, who became the leader, was upset that cars passed him under caution, including Chase contender Kevin Harvick. Hamlin directed his anger on the radio toward O’Donnell, saying: “It’s not right. They can’t go green. O’Donnell, I told you to get this (expletive) right!’’
Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick, said Harvick was in front of Hamlin and that Hamlin drove by Harvick. Childers said they were directed by NASCAR to pass Hamlin and the pace car.
Miller and Buck did not address why specific cars were aligned where they were.
Buck said NASCAR officials would explain to teams what happened and why cars were placed where they were.
“I’m looking forward to this week to have an opportunity to talk to Richard or Steve or Scott, the guys at NASCAR, to understand what went on there,’’ Knaus said after the race, won by Jimmie Johnson.
“It’s a challenge, man. When you have 40 cars going around a half‑mile racetrack, people start to pit, one guy is 12 seconds back, the other guy is three seconds back. It’s still very, very confusing to me right now.’’