Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition and Racing Development for NASCAR, met with the media following the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 16, 2014.
KERRY THARP: We're going to have Robin Pemberton up here, vice president of competition and racing development. He's going to walk everybody through that last caution. He'll take a couple of questions and then we'll hear from our race winner. Robin, if you wouldn't mind joining us up here at the podium. If you could walk us through the last caution at the end of the race.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, after review of the situation post-race, what had happened in the closing laps of the race, it appears that in the flag stand one of the flag people had leaned on the switch that is the manual override for the caution lights, and so that happened.
We've got times here, but anyway, that happened, and at that time when the flag stand realized that the caution lights were illuminated, the flag man threw the flag, and then after that happened we froze the field from the tower.
It appears that in, not all, but most of the flag stands have a manual override for the caution lights, and due to the weather and due to other things, there's an area that it couldn't have been -- it wasn't secured properly, and the flag person leaned against the switch and turned the caution lights on.
We tried to turn them off, and we realized that the override switch was on and they were hung on caution. It was a stupid error.
Q. I was in the infield when all this happened. Do you have the time or the lap sequence of when that happened?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yes, and I don't know if these numbers mean anything to you. It was 21:23:46:33 was the time that the switch was thrown manually. It was 21:23:52:20 when the flag man threw the flag. And then the time of day was 21:24:12:995 when we froze the field. We went back, and when you look at the rundown, the only cars that had to change positions is the 5 was behind the 24, so it was 11-24-5. That's the only thing we had to change. And that's the freeze -- the freeze was roughly 20 seconds after the manual caution flag itself was thrown, and the caution flag itself was six seconds after the switch was leaned on and turned. So no positions were changed during that time, other than the 5.
Q. I have two: Did you have to go to video, or did you just use the scoring line to set --
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Video. We treated it just like the freeze at the end of the race if there was an accident or something.
Q. In some ways are you glad the rain came so it didn't --
ROBIN PEMBERTON: There's two very happy people in this room right now, and the next one will be up here in a second when you turn me loose.
Q. The caution light, the light was leaned on and hit, and then six seconds later, the flag man was told to throw the caution?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, six seconds later -- he has the ability to throw the caution. If he sees something, he can throw the caution.
Q. So that's him, not the tower?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: When the people in the flag stand saw that the caution lights were illuminated and they did not have the flag out, they threw the flag out. Then we realized what happened. We were scanning cars and spotters, and there's some of us in the tower that only heard it after the teams were talking about it because we were looking at other things around the racetrack.
So there was basically three times in there.
Q. And secondly, obviously still very early, but what do you do moving forward to prevent this from happening down the road because certainly with the incentivizing of winning, something like this, whether it was tonight or down the road can have a dramatic impact on who makes the Chase.
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Absolutely. We learn a lot of lessons, and when we learn a lesson like this we'll go in and further investigate some things. As you know, all the electronics that we've had and have installed in the trailers for freeze the field and all these other things, there's still -- you still have to integrate into the track facilities, so there's probably some things that we needed to do to better secure that area where the manual override is on the lights.
Q. Did the flag man know why the caution was thrown?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, nobody knew. They didn't know. There's two people in the stand and a photographer at the end of the race and as you can only imagine as the day went on and the different scenarios of getting up and down and they were probably pretty cold standing up there all day long, they had bundles of clothes on so I can only sympathize with the conditions that they were trying to deal with today.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROBIN PEMBERTON: No, on my freeze the field, it is not that, 98.
You guys, be safe going home. I bring you cousin Carl.