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NASCAR fans and drivers now expect surprise late cautions in races because, as critics would suggest, it provides the sanctioning body with an opportunity to reset, bunch up the cars on a restart, and produce a mad dash to the finish. 

That happened Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year in the spring race. However, this time there was a violent crash on the last lap in which Ryan Preece slammed AJ Allmendinger in the door. Surprisingly, officials opted not to put out a caution and, on Tuesday, explained why.

Unfortunately, the explanation doesn’t hold water, and replay clearly shows it.

NASCAR puts out caution when Aric Almirola hits the wall

Kyle Larson appeared destined for his first victory in 2023 at Las Vegas on Sunday, but that all changed instantly with four laps to go when Aric Almirola got sideways and hit the wall in Turn 4. 

Unsurprisingly, fans debated the merit of the caution, suggesting the No. 10 car quickly recovered — so fast, in fact, that when Clint Bowyer mentioned the incident and the broadcast showed the Stewart-Haas Racing car, it was riding close to the wall but appeared to be fine.  

This week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer addressed the incident.

“The 10 car, as you look at that, he’s spinning. He makes contact twice,” Sawyer said. “The right rear catches, and then the right front slaps. That’s a hard hit. We know that from looking at data. 

“There’s no telling at that point what the damage is to the vehicle, if we’ve got parts, if we’ve got debris coming off the vehicle, as well as paint and things coming off the wall. So at that point in time, we’d like for them to finish under green. But in that particular case, we had to throw the caution. Although he could drive off, there was still some cleanup that needed to be done.”

Violent crash on final lap and NASCAR doesn’t put out caution

2023 NASCAR Pennzoil 400 Race
The beginning of the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube on March 5, 2023, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. | Christopher Trim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On the subsequent overtime restart, William Byron surged in front and was the first to take the white flag for the final lap around the 1.5-mile track. The No. 24 car had made its way through Turn 2 and was racing down the backstretch when a crash started behind.

Among a pack of cars, AJ Allmendinger had just finished coming out of Turn 2 when he got sideways on the wall and began sliding down the track into traffic. Numerous cars, including Tyler Reddick and Ty Gibbs, narrowly avoided the No. 16 car.

Ryan Preece did not.

The No. 41 car violently slammed into the driver’s-side door of the Kaulig Racing car, which sent it around for two complete spins before it hit the inside wall. Multiple other cars were involved, including Michael McDowell, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Dillon. 

To the surprise of many watching, NASCAR did not put out a caution.

NASCAR offers explanation 

During Sawyer’s appearance on SiriusXM, he also addressed the crash on the final lap. 

“On the last-lap deal, we’ve taken the white flag. We’ve come off a caution, so we got a restart, and the pack is together,” Sawyer said. ‘”As they come off 2, the leaders are down into Turn 3 when they start wrecking, you know, midway, three-quarters of the way down the back straightaway. 

“As we’ve said many, many times, our ultimate goal is to finish our races under green. So as we start watching that there are cars still moving. At that point, we didn’t see anything that had made significant contact. Ultimately, the 16 took a pretty good hit, but at that point, the leader had already taken or was close to the start-finish line at that point. So we got back to the checkered flag under green conditions and then we were able to dispatch the safety equipment and get it to the drivers at that point.”

NASCAR’s official version of events is inaccurate

Sawyer’s statement is NASCAR’s official version of events for the crash on the final lap and why the tower opted not to put out a caution. Unfortunately, it’s not accurate, and the replay clearly shows it. 

The leader was not in Turn 3 when the No. 16 started spinning, as Sawyer described. Byron had just driven past the Nellis Straightaway signage in the middle of the backstretch when Allmendinger got blasted by the No. 41 car. The spin had actually started before that. 

Sawyer said officials “didn’t see anything that had made significant contact” in one sentence and, in the next, said ”the 16 took a pretty good hit, but at that point, the leader had already taken or was close to the start-finish line.”  

Again, that’s not accurate. Replay showed Allmendinger spun twice and was just feet from hitting the inside wall when the broadcast returned to the front of the field. Byron was just getting into the middle of Turn 3. 

Fans want consistency

Flash back to the start of the season and the Daytona 500. NASCAR put out a caution on the white-flag lap in overtime because of a violent collision that involved multiple drivers, and officials wanted to get safety equipment immediately dispatched to the wounded cars. 

The situation at Las Vegas was similar. AJ Allmendinger, by Sawyer’s own admission, took a “pretty good hit.” A hit that, by NASCAR’s own standards, should have been cause for concern about the driver’s safety. Unlike the Daytona 500, a caution in Vegas wouldn’t have been controversial because Byron was clearly out in front at the time of the accident. In other words, there was no reason not to throw it and get Allmendinger attention.

If NASCAR is sincere that safety is a top priority, then the tower must be consistent in its decisions and make those split-second decisions erring on the side of caution. Ultimately, that’s all the fans want: consistency. Anything less is a disservice to both the drivers and the fans. 

Sportscasting reached out to NASCAR for comment but has not received a response. 


Commercial Tracker: 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway