Errant tire stirs controversy during Kansas race, for everyone except those who mattered

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - MAY 02: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Verizon 5G Ford, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 02, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

It was the tire seen around the world Sunday, at least the NASCAR world.

During a round of green flag stops in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Kansas Speedway, a tire got away from the crew servicing the car of Tyler Reddick on lap 225. The tire rolled onto the ballfield in front of pit road and stopped.

Chris Buescher had yet to pit and stayed out hoping for a caution. Had NASCAR thrown it, Buescher would have had the field a lap down. NASCAR however waited for the stops to cycle through and moments after Buescher pitted from the lead, threw the caution 15 laps after the tire first rolled away from the car.

While the laps were adding up and the tire wasn’t moving, social media exploded with many questioning why NASCAR didn’t throw a caution sooner. Had they done so, Buescher could have kept the lead, and perhaps changed the entire complexion of the race.

The decision not to pit during a cycle of green flag stops is a strategy call made by some teams who aren’t in contention for the win, but who might gain spots staying out when a caution is thrown. Buscher’s team tried the strategy failed as NASCAR waited until the cycle was complete before throwing the caution to retrieve the tire.

NASCAR’s reasoning was that the tire was far enough away from the racing surface and they felt comfortable completing the pit stop sequence before retrieving the tire. Once the cycle ended, they felt the time was right to display the yellow.

“Yeah, I think everybody getting into their pit stops and everything kind of cycling back through and getting back to zero is a good call,” race winner Kyle Busch said. “I would go with that all day long.

“I just don’t know if pit cycles were done and then we ran 10 more, or if pit cycles were done and we ran like two more. If that’s the way it was then I thought that was a good call.”

Busch’s crew chief Ben Beshore agreed.

“I feel like lately they’ve been consistent with that kind of stuff where they let it cycle out,” he said. “It’s nice that they do that because it’s not an unfair advantage to the guys that short pitted and somebody just let a tire roll out. I think what they did was right. I was happy with the call.

“We were ready in case they threw a caution, but to be honest with you I was expecting them to keep it out until it fully cycled, especially with only a handful of laps there left. I didn’t feel like it was a safety hazard by any means where it was. It was so far away from the racetrack.

“I think if we were at a different track or say Atlanta and it rolled out from pit stall 40 and was 12 feet from the racing surface, then that’s a different story. But where it was, I thought it wasn’t a safety issue.”

Brad Keselowski finished third.

“I don’t know really if there’s a better solution,” he said. “If there was a better solution maybe I wouldn’t be, but I don’t have one. I can tell you that…Somebody is always going to be upset on them deals, and it’s kind of pick your poison. “

Matt DiBenedetto finished fourth, and he too seemed to echo the others opinions. He was made aware of what was going during the cycle of stops.

“My spotter, Doug, was keeping me up to date on it,” he said. “I’d be curious to see what peoples’ thoughts were on it.  Mine personally, in my opinion, I guess I was glad and appreciative because it wasn’t unsafe.  The tire was down there out of harm’s way, so I thought personally that was pretty cool that they let it shake out and we all got our pit cycles through.  It was nothing unsafe or anything, so I was totally fine with it.  NASCAR does a good job of not trying to impede on the races and do anything that jumbles it up unnecessarily, so thankful for that.”

Despite the missed strategy Buescher finished 8th, his second-best finish of the season to date only one spot behind his 7th place finish at Atlanta.


Greg Engle