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Podcast: Should NASCAR throw the yellow flag for rain on road courses or change rule?

Rick Allen, Kyle Petty and Steve Letarte break down Christopher Bell's surprise road course win at Daytona, the controversial rain caution flag and what the result means for Joe Gibbs Racing.

According to its rulebook, NASCAR correctly officiated Sunday’s Daytona International Speedway road course race, which went under yellow because of a rain shower despite access to wet-weather tires.

The question becomes whether that rulebook now should be tweaked before the next road course race on May 23 at Circuit of the Americas.

The latest episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast featured an in-depth analysis of the yellow flag that was the turning point of Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Because the race had started under dry conditions, NASCAR threw the yellow on Lap 57 by rule to allow pit stops to switch to rain tires. But the shower was brief, and the track surface avoided collecting enough moisture for any team to switch off slick tires.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Who was up and down at the Daytona road course

DAYTONA TAKEAWAYS: Chase Elliott still class of the field

It still had a major impact on the race. Chase Elliott, who led 44 laps, fell out of first for good, while Christopher Bell outdueled Joey Logano for his first victory in NASCAR’s premier series.

During the podcast, NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte said he thinks NASCAR will reconsider the rule requiring a yellow flag to allow for a rain tire switchover. Most series with road racing (such as IndyCar and Formula One) hold off on caution flags for light rain and put the onus on teams to make the call on whether to pit, heightening the drama and dynamics of a race affected by inclement weather

“NASCAR has to operate within the rulebook just as the teams do,” NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte said. “They can’t make it up as they go whether they like or don’t like the call they have to make. Do I think NASCAR can just remove that and say, ‘Listen guys, we’re never going to throw a caution for rain. Rain tires are available all the time. Knock yourself out if you want to do it.’ Maybe that’s something they could do.”

NASCAR: OReilly Auto Parts 253

Feb 21, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliot (9) is spun by NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Daytona also prompted debate about whether NASCAR should lessen the disruption of road course races by opting for “local yellows” in minor incidents instead of full-course yellows that disrupt a race’s natural rhythm and strategies. There were two caution flags Sunday to clear debris that might have been local yellows in other racing series, opting to use the large runoff areas and open track that is less of a feature in oval racing.

NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller told SiriusXM in a Monday morning interview that it’s unlikely there would be situations employing local yellows.

“It’s hard to compare NASCAR to other road courses, because it’s not just the rain situation that’s different,” Letarte said on the podcast. “NASCAR operates road course races like they do every other race when it comes to flags. A local yellow in most road courses races, is a non-passing opportunity, and you must continue your line. In NASCAR, it seems more of a warning, you still can overtake, so there are all these downstream effects, that’s why I struggle to know what the right manner is.”

With seven road-course races on the schedule (more than twice as many as last year), it’s a debate that is likely to continue, and Letarte believes drivers should have the final say on any policy changes.

“When you talk about wet weather and local yellows, that is purely a safety-type situation,” Letarte said. “If the drivers say, ‘If it’s wet, it’s on me or my team to know’ or ‘Throw a local yellow,’ then I’m OK with it. But if the drivers say, ‘No, if it’s dry and suddenly gets wet, I want a yellow because I don’t want to barrel off in there,’ I struggle with it. Because I don’t think we have the right to tell Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin or Brad Keselowski what is safe or not.

“All the drivers aren’t going to agree, but the majority is going to have to get with NASCAR and alter it from there. With six more road courses are coming, we have to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Other topics discussed during thi episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast:

--The breakthrough victories of Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs;

--Why are so many drivers getting their first victories on road courses despite their youth and inexperience?

--Whether crew chief Adam Stevens felt some redemption of winning before former driver Kyle Busch;

--The impact of two first-time winners on the playoff picture.

To listen to the podcast, you can click on the link above, or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download podcasts.