Veteran sports writer Jim Utter covers NASCAR for The Charlotte Observer and its racing site, ThatsRacin.com. In this space, Jim writes about all things NASCAR and other forms of racing which may also be relevant ... or not.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck addresses late-race cautions for debris at Fontana
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck addresses the late-race cautions for debris in Sunday's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway:
We got multiple reports over the radio and confirmed there was a
piece of material, something, in the racing groove. So we went ahead
and called the caution. By the time we called the caution, somebody hit
it. I don't have it back yet, I don't have the piece back yet. But we
always ask the safety and cleanup crews to return that stuff. But there
were multiple reports.
We always make our best effort. I mean, safety is number one. We always make our best effort to let it race back. We had well over a mile. The leaders were coming off of (Turn) two. We have multiple people in the tower watching multiple things. We're all communicating very quickly and at a high level.
We could see the cars coming off of (Turn) two. We were watching the frontstretch. (Greg) Biffle got it started back up, got it turned around and headed off. We have two folks in the flag stand that were right there on top of it, so we had a bird's eye view from their perspective that there was no debris there and we could let it come back and come back to a natural finish.
Q. When you say you had multiple reports, were they from drivers ...
RICHARD 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, with a one or ten, so the teams know in case there is a piece of debris they need to know about 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 three.
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.
Q. Just to confirm so I understand, somebody hit it after it was called in?
RICHARD BUCK: Yeah. Well, I don't know. That piece should come back on one of the cleanup trucks because they go out there now. But it was reported multiple times as a piece of metal.
Q. One of your officials said they saw something but couldn't tell exactly what it was. How do you balance trying to find out what it is versus having to throw the caution for safety reasons?
RICHARD BUCK: Safety's number one. 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, a lot of, you know, paper trash and plastic bags and those kind of things which circulate. But we got definite confirmation on it that it was debris, actually that it was metal. It looked like a piece of metal.
Q. Obviously you don't have an interest in the race. I'm sure you might be able to sympathize how much a little thing like that can change the whole course of the race. Are you cognizant of that when you make those kind of calls?
RICHARD BUCK: No. It's strictly a process that we go through. You know, we don't have any favorites. We try to keep every emotion out of it. Safety's number one. We have over a hundred years worth of experience in the tower with Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, David Hoots, myself. Between us we work very closely in a very dynamic way to identify the situation and look for the solution to it, then that solution is backed up by multiple layers. So we feel very, very confident about our actions.