Quick takeaways from Watkins Glen: Where did you go, caution flags?

From The Marbles
The last time a Cup race at Watkins Glen had three cautions? 1995. (Getty)
The last time a Cup race at Watkins Glen had three cautions? 1995. (Getty)

Consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.

• Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen was a quick one.

The race featured just three caution flags, the fewest in a Watkins Glen Cup Series race since 1995. And that’s not even an apples-to-apples comparison. There was no such thing as stage racing 22 years ago. With two of the three cautions coming via breaks between stages, just one of the cautions in Sunday’s race was organic.

It wasn’t even for a crash, either. The caution came out on lap 53 for Landon Cassill’s flat tire. While there were a couple spins on Sunday — most notably for an incident between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch that we’ll go into below — nothing necessitated a caution.

In case you were wondering, the last time a Watkins Glen Cup race had less than three cautions was in 1965. Marvin Panch won the race that went caution-free.

And there’s this tidbit too.

• The latest installment of the rivalry between Keselowski and Busch happened at the beginning of the race’s final stage. As Busch was trying to charge back through the field following a pit stop malfunction after stage one, he dove to the outside of Keselowski entering the bus stop chicane.

The move didn’t work.

As he was pinched down to the curb on the right, Keselowski’s car appeared to bounce off of it and he lost control. He slid into Busch, and the two drivers went spinning into the run-off area.

The incident effectively ended any chances of Busch winning the race. He started on the pole and led the first 20 laps. And probably had the best car. But after the pit stop problem — a lug nut got hung between the wheel and the caliper — he never was able to recover.

Busch was upset about the contact, an emotion likely a product of his mid-race frustration and the history he has with Keselowski. But Keselowski said after the race that the incident was far from intentional. But to be fair, there wasn’t much doubt that it wasn’t.

“Well, nobody is happy when you have contact,” Keselowski said. “It didn’t help my day at all either, I can tell you that. I wasn’t looking to get into him and I don’t think he was looking to get into me. He probably had the dominant car. He didn’t need any trouble. Neither did I.”

For Keselowski, the incident almost worked out into a win or a top-five finish. After Cassill’s caution, Keselowski was the race leader. He took the lead back from Truex after Truex started to save fuel … but he had to pit with four laps to go. Had there been a late caution or two, Keselowski likely could have stretched his fuel to the end and possibly held Truex off. Or at least tried to, anyway.

Keselowski was well-positioned for a top-five finish after pitting but he drove through too many pit boxes after his stop for gas and had to serve a pass-through penalty. He finished 15th.

“Gosh, it’s a bummer,” Keselowski said. “We weren’t the fastest car today but we raced real hard and with a lot of heart. That put us in position. I hate that I cost us a top-five to a 15th.”

Daniel Suarez’s third-place finish is the best of his Cup career and his first top-five finish. He also won stage two for his first stage win and playoff point. The improvement Suarez is showing is real. It may not be enough for him to make the playoffs — he’s a long way back from getting in on points — but it could be enough for him to finish the season as the top-ranked non-playoff driver.

• Oh, one more thing. Watkins Glen bragged about a third-straight grandstand sellout for Sunday’s race. A sellout in NASCAR is a rare commodity these days with half-full grandstands being the norm. So it’s something to be celebrated by those at the track and in the industry.

But it also has to be viewed in the correct context. Watkins Glen’s listed grandstand capacity is less than 40,000. That’s a crowd that would look downright dismal at Indianapolis, and probably how many people attended the race in 2016. If you watched that race, you knew how empty the grandstands looked. Perception is everything.

Watkins Glen has a lot of people who come camp for the weekend, so the crowd was likely far north of 40,000 by a number that’s in the five digits. But there were a few reports emanating from the track Sunday morning that 100,000 people could be in attendance for Sunday’s race. We think that’s a tad disingenuous given the (relatively) miniscule grandstand capacity.

– – – – – – –

Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next