Race Weekend Central

Stage Cautions, Lack of Restarts Lead to COTA Snoozer

AUSTIN, Texas — Last year at Circuit of the Americas, the NASCAR Cup Series race had eight total cautions, with no cautions for stage breaks.

This year, the race had no natural cautions — only a pair for the stage breaks.

Cue an “is that good?” from the back row.

The answer is no, it wasn’t.

See also
Turn 8, Track Limits Throw Drivers for a Loop at COTA

The race was a 68-lap snooze-fest for the most part and provided little-to-no excitement in the way of hard racing. The start of the stages into turn 1 were the best parts, and that isn’t a marketable product.

Even drivers found themselves looking for more cautions, like Chris Buescher. Despite wheeling his car into the top 10 with an eighth-place finish, Buescher felt like he and his team could have done more with a few restarts.

“I’m not terribly surprised by (the lack of cautions),” Buescher told Frontstretch. “I guess I would have expected a little more. We could have used a little more opportunity after having to drop to the back to make our way up with our Fastenal Ford Mustang.”

Christopher Bell, who put his No. 20 Toyota Camry in second place, could have used one too. He was chasing down the eventual race winner William Byron for the last 15 laps. Bell had fresher tires and was reeling Byron in by an entire second per lap at one point. But with the race staying green through the end, he ran out of time.

“We took the points in stage one and then we didn’t see another yellow,” Bell said. “We talked about it all week, whether we were going to jump the stages or not, and then decided that if we had an opportunity to win the stages we would take the points. Ultimately, I think that’s why we didn’t win, but this (car) was amazing.”

See also
William Byron Holds Off Christopher Bell, Wins in Austin

Kamui Kobayashi, a road course ringer for 23XI Racing and former Formula 1 driver, also mentioned the lack of cautions and restarts after the race had concluded.

“I felt comfortable in the car, the pace was really good, but (there was) no yellow,” Kobayashi told Frontstretch. “That’s the second time actually that there were no yellows during my race.”

Kobayashi was also in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race last year that had no cautions.

“Two shots and no yellows,” Kobayashi said. “It’s a little bit disappointing, but I enjoy[ed it]. The car felt good. The pace was there.”

There’s a common theme at work here: every person in or watching the race, except for Byron and his fans, could have used more restarts. The sport is all about finding balance between the two sides of long, green runs and a restart every five laps, and there was approximately none of that. It can never be perfect, but if NASCAR wants to keep COTA a marketable race, it has to do better than that.

The idea of moving the restart zone was great.

It kept the field separated just enough by turn 1 to not cause a massive eight-wide crapshoot on exit, but it might have worked too well. Of course, tire fall-off will need to be looked at as well, along with multiple other factors.

One thing is for certain though. No race fan should have to intake the levels of caffeine necessary to watch another race like that one.

About the author

Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.

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6 Comments
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Echo

Nascar knows a sleeper race is marketable, didn’t you notice the TV contract.

John

If you were not entertained by that race and if you feel the need to see crashes, perhaps a demolition derby should be your next ticket…or flip to a basketball game. I thought it was a great race, despite my favorites not being in the top 10. What you have said in your article is that Nascar should artificially bunch up the field. How did that work out for SRX?
You had first and second 2 car lengths apart with the gap closing every lap.
By the thesis or your article, you don’t watch Formula 1, IndyCar or any other
motorsport that has races longer than 30 laps.
Your article is infantile.

Ed Rooney

Maybe you should factor in how NASCAR markets itself. Check out their tv ads. All crash boom bang.
So can you really fault a fan for being disappointed in a race that doesn’t match how the race was marketed??

Well, you probably could.

NASCAR wants everyone to love it but the truth is most races are not that exciting. But they’ll keep on marketing the three-wide finishes and “growing the sport” and chasing new fans at the expense of established fans.

Joshua

Again, take away stage cautions or don’t count the laps. Every race can’t be a barnburner. NASCAR really should just start the race, police violations during the race, and end the race. No manufactured crap. Let the race play out naturally.

gbvette

I found Bell’s race for the lead very entertaining, as was Larson’s the day before. I think the problem is how the network covered race, not the race. Formula 1 races often go the whole race without a lead change, yet Sky always manages to make the race interesting. Sky covers the whole field, not just the top 10, they cover every pit stop, if the leader’s running away from the field they always find something else to cover. It helps that they only have half as many cars to deal with, but it also helps that every car has cameras and that Sky has access to them. If something happens in an F1 race Sky usually has multiple views of it, how often does that happen in a Cup race? I often have the feeling the NASCAR booth crews are often more interested in hearing themselves talk, then covering the race.

Steve

I had to laugh at your comment about multiple views. FOX/NBC have a hard time getting one view of an incident and it usually isn’t the live one.

Last edited 20 days ago by Steve
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