Controversy end to Daytona 500

With two laps to go in the Daytona 500, I watched intently as the number 24 car of William Byron was the leader. Shortly before Byron came to the finish line to make it one lap to go, a crash involving Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain occurred behind him.

By the time NASCAR officials put out the caution flag, Byron had already taken the white flag, meaning there was one lap to go. The NASCAR rulebook states that any time a caution happens with one lap to go, the race is over, and whoever is leading at the point of caution is the winner. So, in this case, the caution came out just after Byron crossed the finish line and the last lap essentially wasn’t run due to the caution.

Nate Regotti, a 2014 graduate of Waynesburg University who is the director of raceday operations at Jennerstown Speedway, thinks NASCAR officials did the right thing. However, he understands why fans are upset.

“Throwing the caution was the correct decision, but I understand that a lot of fans think they could have thrown it quicker or let the accident go,” Regotti said.

I think if NASCAR and its officials had a quicker reaction time, they could have called the caution before Byron took the white flag, as he was about 100 yards away from the finish line when the wreck occurred. Calling the caution quicker would have sent the race into overtime and likely would have given fans a much better finish than the one they got.

“It all happened so quickly that the officials were bound to call the caution late,” Regotti said.

Another scenario I see that NASCAR could have explored was not calling the caution at all. Both drivers involved in the crash were able to drive away, so there were no safety hazards anywhere on the track. This scenario would have allowed the last lap to have actually been played out and could have given the fans an entertaining battle to the finish.

Regotti thinks calling the caution was the safest decision.

“At the time, we didn’t know both the drivers in the crash were going to be able to drive away. So, throwing the caution made sense for the safety of the drivers,” Regotti said.

I believe the ending to this race was completely botched by NASCAR officials. I’m not saying this because I dislike the race winner, Byron. If my favorite driver won the race in this manner, I would genuinely feel cheated. Another reason why I am annoyed with the ending of this race is also because the race was originally supposed to be on Sunday. Not only did I have to wait all day Sunday, but basically all day Monday, for what in my opinion was the worst Daytona 500 finish in recent memory.