CHARLOTTE, N.C. — John Andretti defended NASCAR’s decision not to throw a caution when he couldn’t move his disabled car from the finish line at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
Andretti crashed on the frontstretch during the next to lap of the race, and NASCAR apparently believed he could move his car out of the way in time for the field to race its way across the finish line. Because he couldn’t, the caution wasn’t called until the cars were coming out of the final turn and quickly closing in on Andretti.
“It wasn’t a bad call,” Andretti said in a statement on Monday. “To me, I wasn’t in a great position, but I wasn’t in an overly dangerous position. NASCAR focuses on the race itself, and they want to see the winner come across the finish line.
“It’s probably the call I would’ve made. I would’ve gotten out of the way if I could’ve. But I had a couple of issues. The car was too damaged.”
It’s second time since the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship that NASCAR waited until the last moment to call a caution for an accident near the start/finish line. A similar incident occurred last month in the Chase opener at New Hampshire.
Three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, who finished second, said NASCAR was consistent with its effort of waiting as long as possible to throw the caution in an effort to not spoil an exciting finish.
But, “it makes me a little nervous as I’m charging into the start/finish line and there’s a car sitting there,” he said. “I wish it would be thrown a little bit earlier for safety reasons. Might as well be on the safe side.”
Race-winner Denny Hamlin said he thought Andretti’s car did not pose a threat to the other competitors and NASCAR made the right call.
“I think they’re at least doing a good job of not letting it affect the top five finishing positions,” he said. “They’re doing all they can. They don’t know what’s going on inside that race car, if that guy has given up on starting it or is he continuing to try to get it going. I think as long as they let it play out, it’s fine.”