– Friday, February 29th, 1980 –
I WONDER WHERE THE YELLOW WENT?
Have you ever traveled several hundred miles or even a short distance for that matter to spend your hard earned money to see a big race, only to sit and watch the event finish under a caution flag?
Well!.. During “Speed Weeks ’80”, hundreds of thousands of die hard racing fans ventured to Florida from all over the United States, Canada and as far away as Europe and Australia to see not one, not two but three big races finish under the yellow and the number would have been four except for a distance of a few hundred yards.
Personally, I feel there are two super exciting times in a race. One is the final few laps to the checkered flag and the other is when the cars rumble off the fourth turn in anticipation of the green flag.
Were you one of the thousands who sat in the grandstands at Daytona International Speedway on February 15th, 16th or 17th of this year?… Do you feel you were robbed by having to sit and watch the races on those dates completed under caution?… If not, you should be, even though there was some good action during the three events.
Think about it for a minute!… Did you drive south to the “Big D” with gasoline prices averaging around $1.15 a gallon?… Using Buffalo, N.Y. Or Springfield, Ma. As a point of origin since both are about 1,200 miles from Daytona and if your vehicle gets around fifteen miles per gallon then it had to cost you about $215, including toll cost, to make the round trip. Add to that, food cost, lodging plus your tickets to the speedway and if you didn’t spend a conservative figure of $500 for six days, including two days traveling time, then you’re lying through your hat.
If you took the wings of man south, you paid around $300 for your flight unless you got the super saver for just under 200 big ones. This means you had to spend in the neighborhood of $700 including the car you leased to get around with while in Daytona.
Now how do you feel?… You’re starting to think you got robbed huh?…Well! How do you think Harry Gant felt when he had to settle for second in the “Sportsman 300” because he got caught in the wrong place when the yellow fell and especially when he and everyone else knew he had the fastest car at the end of the race… He felt just like Richie Evans did a couple of years ago as the latter got caught behind Darrell Waltrip when the caution came out with three laps to go in the “Modified 200”.
Even though this year’s “Mod 200” ended under yellow it would have taken nothing short of a miracle to catch Evans. Neil Bonnett, who finished third, said it best when referring to the Rapid Roman he stated; “Every time they dropped the green flag he laid two black strips down the speedway.”
In the case of the “Daytona 500” if the caution flag hadn’t of come out when it did, Buddy Baker may have once again met with failure on the tri-oval at the “Big D” as the very popular driver ran out of gas rolling onto pit road after taking the checkered flag. What would have happened if the race had finished under green? Would Baker have run out of gas before the end?… If so, could Bobby Allison, who finished second, have caught Baker?… Would it have been a dash to the finish?… You’ll never know as you wuz robbed!
The Sunday prior to the “500”, the “ARCA 200” almost ended under yellow when the starter dropped the green at the entrance to pit road some four-hundred yards from the finish and then immediately flew the checkered flag to end the event. Lake Speed, who had been leading the race under yellow, lost the dash to finish line to Joe Rezek.
Last year’s “Daytona 500”, which will be remembered for its wild finish when Cale Yarborough faced the tag team of Donnie and Bobby Allison, started with a yellow flag as did the opening “Winston Western 500” at Riverside, California this season.
The only reason a race would start under yellow is because of rain but there’s no logical explanation for doing this so why the hell start the race at all?
These super facilities get big bucks for tickets to see events such as those at “Speed Weeks ’80”, for instance if you saw the “Busch Clash” and “ARCA 200” on the 10th, the “Twin 125-mile Qualifiers” on the 14th, the “Modified 200” and “Florida 100” the following day, Saturday’s “Sportsman 300” and the “Big D 500”, then the least amount you could have paid for a place in the grandstands is $66 which definitely wouldn’t have been the best seats in the house. For super seats covering the five days of aforementioned events you’d have spent well over a hundred dollars and then be relegated to sit and watch while a race finishes under a boring yellow flag.
The only reason a race should ever finish under caution is because of an act of God such as rain, snow or fog but to end an event in such a matter because of a blown motor, accident or for any other reason just doesn’t make any sense.
It’s you, Joe Q. Public, who more or less foots the bill for a week such as “Speed Weeks ’80”... As one high NASCAR official stated, “This week of racing brings approximately fifty-million dollars to the Daytona area.”… If that’s the case then, they should let the fan get his fifty-million dollars worth meaning let the public see a race start and finish under the green. There’s going to be caution periods during a race for one reason or another that can’t be helped but something can be done about a yellow flag at the start or the finish of a race.
There’s a few alternatives for solving this problem such as; 1. Continue to run lap under the yellow until such time as the green can be dropped for at least two laps… 2. Red flag the race at its conclusion and until such time as the green can be waved to run either two or five laps… 3. Red flag any race within five laps of the finish when the yellow comes out and until such time as the green can be thrown to finish the event. If it happens on either of the last two laps then stop the race until such time as two circuits can be run under green.
One other thing about the yellow flag… When it comes out, it should mean just what it’s intended to, slow down not race back to the start-finish line. Equipment can be destroyed and someday somebody is going to get killed because of this foolish rule… Revert back to the last lap for a line up… Several new-comers were caught with their pants down on some caution flags because they’re under the habit of slowing down and holding their position in this situation as that’s the rule where they run normally… What’s going to happen sometime is that one of these fellows used to slowing down immediately when the yellow comes out is going to get rear ended by one of the guys used to racing to the line causing a serious or fatal injury to one or both involved and possibly causing a chain reaction accident that could be heard around the world…
Have you ever been driving along at let’s say 65 mph and all of a sudden come up on some guy doing 40? Tou had to react quickly by passing if possible or slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting him in the rear end.. Well what about the guy who’s racing back to the line at 190 mph only to come up on some fellow who’s honored the caution by slowing down to let’s say 140. Could get hairy, huh? The only possible reason I can figure why they race back to the line is because of scoring and if so why not do as stated before, revert to the last lap under green?
I spoke to a promoter, a Grand National car owner and a driver. All three felt that finishing a race under yellow was robbing the fan. In fact, the next time you see Stafford Motor Speedway promoter Ed Yarrington ask him his opinion on the aforementioned subject.
Until next time, as the Pepsodent commercial used to say; “I wonder where the yellow went?” or I wished it would!