Last week, Brian France announced a new race feature that angered many Nascar fans–the Caution Clock. The clock, which will only be rolled out in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016, will cause a competition caution to fly 20 minutes into every green flag run. While many have accused Nascar of creating manufactured excitement, the Caution Clock has pros and cons–I break them down below.
While the caution clock would be a radical departure from traditional Nascar racing, it does have some pros. It would create more exciting racing. Despite what purists may say, very few fans enjoy seeing long follow-the-leader green flag runs. The caution clock would also eliminate Nascar’s penchant for debris cautions. The sport has long been criticized for waving the yellow for tiny pieces of debris on the track, just to bunch up the field. These cautions are often unpredictable; at least with the caution clock, teams will know when yellow flags will fly and can strategize for them. Finally, the caution clock wouldn’t exactly be a major game changer. Brian France has already stated that it will be turned off when there are 20 laps to go, and even while it is on, it will be used sparingly. This chart, created by Reddit user dmcgrew, demonstrates that the caution clock would have rarely come into effect during last year’a truck series. There are only two races in which it would have flown more than once. Ultimately, despite all the controversy, the caution clock could have almost no effect.
Most Nascar fans, however, are against the change, and for good reason. The caution clock would eliminate long green-flag runs, but the excitement it creates is manufactured, not real. It would interrupt exciting battles for the lead and could lead to more commercials, as broadcasters would show them every 20 minutes, at minimum. The caution clock would virtually eliminate an exciting part of Nascar races–green flag pit stops. With the caution clock coming out every 20 minutes, teams would rarely get an opportunity to pit under green and make up positions through strategy calls. The caution clock would put an end to the tension fuel-mileage races create, with drivers making passes on track while anxiously trying not to run out of gas. The caution clock would dramatically change Nascar strategy, and not necessarily for the better.
At the end of the day, we won’t know what the Caution Clock will do until we actually see it in a race. It could end up adding excitement to mind-numbing green flag stretches, or it could break up exciting green flag battles and strategy calls, preventing teams from ever making green-flag pit stops. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.