DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Wait, is the ARCA race over yet?
Okay, okay. Enough with the jokes. But, honestly, what happened there?
The season-opening Lucas Oil 200 for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Saturday did finish under green flag conditions — and isn’t that what motorsports fans have been nagging sanctioning bodies for over the past decade?
Even at a restrictor plate event, where it is notorious that races conclude under caution, the ARCA event still finished under the green, with Michael Self earning his second-career series win driving for Venturini Motorsports and Sinclair Oil Corporation.
Oh, and the final lap had three lead changes and took just 75 minutes.
Uhh … how?
As is common practice in ARCA events, late-race procedure states that all races must end under green flag circumstances. Therefore, a caution even on the final lap warrants another one-lap dash to settle the finish … and another one if the caution flies again — even if it takes over an hour and some change.
Well, that rule was pushed to its limits in Daytona.
On the original final lap, a massive incident on the backstretch, involving Bret Holmes (whose race car ended up on its side), Gus Dean, and others warranted red flag conditions. Despite the leaders being near the frontstretch, the caution was thrown and the frontrunners re-stacked for a one lap shootout.
After a lengthy cleanup, the race restarted with an intense four car battle that showed Chase Purdy pushing Sheldon Creed and Travis Braden pushing Sean Corr … and entering the final corner, the race appeared to be headed for a photo finish.
However, before reaching the checkers, the two tandems connected, causing a melee and allowing former NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standout Self to burst through and the top spot. But, the caution had flown again and another one lap dash was on tap.
At this point, the Twitter universe started mocking the race.
Hashtags such as #ARCANightInAmerica started buzzing on social media, teasing at the fact the race (which was a mere 80 laps) started at 4:45 p.m. Eastern and was nearing the 8:00 p.m. mark before finally reaching its conclusion.
Following another 20 minute cleanup, the race restarted again and the Dino Racing machine pulled away from the field and — somehow, someway — the 24 hours of ARCA finally ended with Self the victor.
Alright, it wasn’t exactly 24 hours, but close enough.
Listen, don’t get me a wrong — I use to DESPISE seeing hard fought races end under caution. But after this, I sorta have a little different take. In those multiple one lap dashes, various race cars were destroyed further, television time was wasted, and the sport looked like a joke.
That wasn’t racing … that was just survival of the fittest.
I’m all about finishing under green, but that’s not always the greatest idea. Look, the whole point in adjusting to composite bodies in ARCA was to reduce costs for the race teams. Well, tonight, whether it was composite bodies, steel bodies or even banana boat bodies … MONEY was wasted.
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