NASCAR’s Pemberton explains extended late-race caution in NNS finale


According to NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton, the extended late-race caution in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway initially looked like “a typical cleanup.”

It turned into anything but. Prior to that final caution, the longest period under yellow had been five laps. But after a multi-car incident on Lap 183, track workers needed 12 laps to clean up oil left over from the accident on the front-stretch.

The problems started when Regan Smith (pictured, No. 7) tried to clear Jeremy Clements (pictured, No. 51) as they were racing three-wide off of Turn 4 with Mike Wallace. But Smith’s rear bumper made contact with Clements’ front end and that sent Smith into the outside wall, pinning Clements against it and inflicting damage to Wallace’s car as well.

Pemberton said he and the NASCAR officials believed that they would only need a “normal lap segment” to clean up the mess. But instead, NASCAR was forced to wave off the restart multiple times while the workers continued their efforts.

“Unfortunately, there was a lot of oil – it looked like it kept either seeping back up out of the race track or whatever from the car that was on the outside of the wall,” Pemberton said. “We went one to go a handful of times trying to get back racing as soon as we can, but when you’re in situations like that, the most important thing is getting the track race ready.

“You can use your hindsight every chance that you want to, but in this particular time, we did the best we could and it was more important to get the track ready.”

Certainly, nobody wanted the field to go back to green on an oil-slicked front stretch. But the delay still transformed the NNS driver’s championship battle between Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. into a five-lap free-for-all.

And that did not play into Hornish’s favor, by any means. His team owner, Roger Penske, said that it was “very disappointing” to see the caution being extended as long as it was.

But Pemberton noted that you can’t pick when inopportune moments happen.

“First race of the year, the last race of the year – we try to operate the same no matter what it is,” he said. “And unfortunately, sometimes it happens this way.”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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