A week after Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were critical of NASCAR for debris cautions late in races, both applauded the sanctioning body for allowing the final half of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma to run caution-free until an accident on the final lap.
“There was a lot of opportunity that you could have got that debris caution or whatever during the race, but it was nice to see that the race actually got to play out,’’ Stewart said after Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick won at Sonoma.
A week ago, Stewart tweeted his frustration with a debris caution on Lap 181 of the 200-lap race at Michigan International Speedway. Two cautions for accidents followed, including one for Stewart’s driver, Clint Bowyer. Stewart later tweeted how “so many drivers and teams day was ruined by the result of another “debris” caution towards the end of the race.’’
Earnhardt joined in his displeasure, saying on Periscope after the Michigan race that “with the stages, I don’t know why they’ve got to throw so many damn debris caution yellows.’’
Monday morning on Periscope, Earnhardt was appreciative of NASCAR allowing the Sonoma race to run without a caution for so long.
“We talked about NASCAR throwing a lot of debris yellows at Michigan and in the weeks prior to that, there were a lot of questionable cautions in the Cup races,’’ Earnhardt said. “This particular weekend, I think they were trying to make a statement to not throw any unnecessary yellows. Guys were spinning off the race track and crashing. A lot of things going on late in that race in Sonoma and they let it play out.
“I saw some of Tony Stewart’s comments postrace about how he was proud of NASCAR for letting the race play out naturally. I thought that was a great way to put it.’’
The next-to-last caution period was from Lap 52-54. There wasn’t another caution until Lap 110, the final lap, when Kasey Kahne crashed.
Of the six caution flags in Sunday’s race, one was for debris.
Since 2010, the Cup race at Sonoma has averaged 0.75 debris cautions per race. There were no debris cautions at Sonoma in 2010, ’12 and ’13. Last year’s race had two debris cautions, the most since 2010.
A study by NBC Sports revealed that debris cautions this season have been among their lowest total in years. Entering the Sonoma race, the 12 debris yellows this season were the fewest in 14 years at that point.