Following the controversy Sunday over a debris caution with 20 laps left in the Cup race at Michigan, NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte said such cautions “need to be proven” to protect the integrity of the race, especially once the season reaches the playoffs.
“We’re talking about an untimely caution at Michigan in the summer,” Letarte said. “What happens when we get into the playoffs in the fall? I think NASCAR, the sanctioning body and the tracks have a responsibility to create a playing field and a set of rules they can enforce. The debris needs to be proven. … There’s too many loopholes. ”
The caution with 20 to go resulted in the field being bunched up and two accidents occurring in the final 13 laps.
After the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart shared their disappointment in how the debris caution impacted the outcome of the race.
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, explained on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” Monday how the sanctioning body decides to call a debris caution.
“We use all the resources that we have to try to identity what it is that is out there – that being camera, turn spotters and the communication that we’ve got around the race track to different people who may be able to see it,’’ Miller said.
Letarte takes issue with the level of thoroughness in NASCAR’s system to determine when a debris caution is needed.
“If we take for face value what NASCAR says, which is they put safety first and they’re going to put the caution out when they don’t know what it is on the race track … then the issue I have is the resources we use to figure what that debris is,” Letarte said.
Letarte also criticized the fact that NASCAR’s race control both decides when the caution comes out for debris and also determines what the debris is.
“They provide their own information,” Letarte said. “It’s their responsibility to put spotters, cameras and whatever other technology is out there. … I don’t think that technology has changed enough in the last 15 years.”
Former crew chief Slugger Labbe said late debris cautions are “untimely,” but are an “essence of safety” for drivers.
“Just think if there was something was there and they (NASCAR) weren’t sure what it was, if it was rubber or it was metal,” Labbe said. “Someone runs over it, blows a tire at 218 mph at Michigan. We saw what Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray looked liked getting into Turn 1 at Pocono (after their brakes failed). I get it. I’ve benefited from debris cautions and I’ve paid the price on debris cautions. It goes both ways.”
Veteran driver and analyst Parker Kligerman called on NASCAR to be more transparent with its debris yellows, perhaps by presenting the evidence for them postrace — or admitting the error if there turned out to be no debris.
Watch the above video for the full discussion.