Cup Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Kellogg's/Frosted Flakes Ford, takes the checkered flag as the caution waves as he crosses the finish line under caution to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 16, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.

Published on March 17th, 2014 | by Michael J Smith


NASCAR Explains Mysterious Caution

NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development, Robin Pemberton said that a flagman accidentally caused the caution that effectively ended the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

When the caution lights came on with Carl Edwards leading with two laps to go, confusion set in because the caution flag wasn’t waving. No one could explain what brought out the caution. Fortunately, the rain started immediately after the accidental caution, allowing NASCAR to freeze the field and end the race without attempting a green-white-checkered finish.

Pemberton said:

It appears that in the flagstand, one of the flag people had leaned on the switch that is the manual override for the caution lights, and so that happened. … That happened, and at that time when the flagstand realized that the caution lights were illuminated, the flag man threw the flag, and then after that happened we froze the field from the tower.

Pemberton said that the switch wasn’t secured properly, and the flagman who leaned on the manual override wasn’t initially aware why the lights were on.

Once NASCAR officials learned that the caution lights were on, they waved the caution flag.

Pemberton added:

We tried to turn them off, and we realized that the override switch was on and they were hung on caution. It was a stupid error.

NASCAR used scoring monitors to verify the finishing order. Based on the videos, NASCAR switched Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon to seventh and eighth, respectively. They also moved Denny Hamlin to sixth.

Edwards said:

I can tell you, for Robin and NASCAR to come up here and explain exactly what happened immediately after the race and just put it out there that, “Hey, it was a mistake and it was inadvertent,” I think that says a lot about the state of the leadership of our sport.

Edwards is no stranger to this sort of thing. In 2004, Edwards lost a Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway when he slowed when the caution lights inadvertently came on.

Pemberton said that officials would look at what happened and work to make sure that it doesn’t happen again:

We learn a lot of lessons, and when we learn a lesson like this, we’ll go in and further investigate some things. As you know, all the electronics that we’ve had and have installed in the trailers for freeze the field and all these other things … you still have to integrate [them] into the track facilities, so there’s probably some things that we needed to do to better secure that area where the manual override is on the lights.

NASCAR has frequently been accused of throwing unnecessary cautions near the end of races to make the finishes more exciting. So, for them to come out and own up to this mistake does a little to increase their credibility — though some may disagree. All in all, NASCAR should be commended for admitting and owning up to their mistake.

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About the Author

Michael J. Smith is a NASCAR enthusiast and blogger. In addition to founding this website, Michael is a journalist with over a decade of experience writing for prestigious media organizations.

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