NASCAR wants its races to end under full-speed green flag conditions so badly that they instituted the overtime system to restart races after big wrecks. Tonight’s Brickyard 400 took two overtime attempts before it was ended with a crash, but it sure took officials a while to throw the last yellow flag.
Leading driver Kasey Kahne needed to make it over the overtime line in order for the race to end, but this crash happened well before Kahne reached the line. The yellow flag that came out moments later to slow traffic down for the last “big one” on track felt like a delayed reaction—almost like NASCAR wanted this race to be over as much as the rest of us.
The race was losing daylight fast, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway has no lights. This restart was at 8:53 p.m. local Eastern time, just minutes before sunset at 9:05 p.m., per NBC Sports. Today’s race started after a one-hour, 47-minute rain delay and had a record 14 cautions that dragged it out well past its expected end time. Two of those were red flags, pushing the race’s conclusion back for pauses in the action that lasted a combined 44 minutes.
NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell defended the delayed caution to NBC Sports:
We’ve said every single time we’ve raced is we will make every attempt possible to finish under green. We did that. Once we realized there was the need to bring on safety vehicles and the track was oiled down, we threw the caution.
O’Donnell’s words smell like an excuse to me, as yellow flags are also used to warn racers not to hit the massive wreck in front of them on track, regardless of whether a safety vehicle is being sent right away or not. A yellow flag is a warning flag to tell racers to back off and slow down. Not throwing a yellow flag immediately for a big crash is pretty sketchy.
But this delay allowed them to finally end the race before Mother Nature did it for them, and one rather exhausted looking Kasey Kahne was declared the winner.