NASCAR Sprint Cup director on late-race decisions: ‘We feel very, very confident about our actions’

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Richard Buck, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director, met with the media after Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway to explain a couple of NASCAR’s calls late in the race. Here’s what he said.

On calling a debris caution before the final scheduled lap, forcing the race to go to a green-white-checkered finish:

BUCK: “We got multiple reports over the radio and confirmed it that there was a piece of material, something in the racing groove and so, we went ahead to call the caution. By the time that we called the caution, somebody had hit it. I don’t have the piece back yet. We always ask the safety clean-up crews to return that to us, but there were multiple reports (of debris on the track).’’

On NASCAR not calling a caution, which would have ended the race, when Greg Biffle had his accident on the frontstretch:

BUCK: “Safety is No. 1. We always make our best effort to let them race back. We had well over a mile. The leaders were coming off of (Turn 2). We had multiple people in the tower watching multiple things, and we’re all communicating very quickly and at a high level. We could see the cars coming off 2, and we were watching the frontstretch. Biffle got it started back up and got it turned around and headed off. We had two folks in the flag stand that were right there on top of it. We had a birds-eye view from their perspective that there was no debris, so we could let it come back to a natural finish.’’

On the multiple reports of debris on the track before the scheduled finish:

BUCK: “It’s a process during the race. It’s pretty consistent. The driver will call it in, then we’ll check with our turn spotters. That’s heard over the radio, whatever the race control is … so the teams know in case there is a piece of debris they need to know about it for safety reasons. Then we’ll confirm it. We’ve got the pit open and the pit closed folks that are close to that area. We have the caution car. We have spotters on the backstretch and on the entrance to Turn 3. We’ll go through our process quickly and make sure that we have a confirmation that there is debris, if we can identify the debris, where it’s at, if it’s anywhere in the racing groove. As you know, this place, the racing groove’s all the way across.  If it’s anywhere in the racing groove, we’ll have to go to the caution and go get it.’’

On confirming the piece of debris was hit:

BUCK: “The piece should come back on one of the cleanup trucks. It was reported multiple times as a piece of metal.’’

On how does NASCAR balance letting the race end naturally and throwing a caution for safety:

BUCK: “Safety is No. 1 and if there’s any question whatsoever, we’ll throw the caution. We want to identify it first, obviously, because there was a lot of paper flying around today. We got definite confirmation on it that it was debris, actually that it was metal. It looked like a piece of metal.’’

On how calls or non-calls can impact the race:

BUCK: “It’s strictly a process that we go through. We don’t have any favorites. We try to keep every emotion out of it. Safety is No. 1. We’ve got over 100 years of experience in the tower with (NASCAR officials) Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, David Hoots and myself in racing. Between us, we work every closely together in a very dynamic way to identity the situation and look for the solution to it, then that solution is backed up by multiple layers. We feel very, very confident about our actions.’’