Bruton Smith wants 'timeouts'

Updated: June 30, 2012, 6:06 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

SPARTA, Ky. -- Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith said NASCAR needs to implement mandatory cautions, or race stoppages, to bring more excitement to the races.

"Call it what you want, but you've got to have caution flags," Smith said Saturday before the Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. "That creates excitement. You can't just sit there with nothing happening. It ruins the event. It's damaging to our sport."

Cautions flags and caution laps are down this year in NASCAR. Many races this season have produced long green-flag runs without a lot of passing up front.

The Nationwide Series race at Kentucky on Friday night had a record 113 consecutive green-flag laps. Austin Dillon led 192 of 200 laps and won by 9.8 seconds.

Some fans have criticized the 1.5-mile ovals such as Kentucky, saying those tracks are the problem. Smith vigorously disagrees.

Someone once said we're in show business. Well, if we're in show business, let's deliver that show. Right now we're not delivering it. Other sports have mandatory timeouts and TV timeouts. All that stuff creates things in those sports. We need to be creative in this sport.

-- SMI chairman Bruton Smith

"In my opinion, we cannot go out and start condemning mile-and-a-half speedways," said Smith, who owns five 1.5-mile oval tracks. "They've been around a long time. I built Charlotte (Motor Speedway) in 1960 and it has stood the test of time.

"So don't tell me it's the speedway. Bull. What we have is a tire problem. We have a lot of different problems, but it's not the mile-and-a-half speedways."

Smith said NASCAR needs to deliberately create more double-file restarts. NASCAR made a rule change in 2009 that moved all the lead-lap cars to the front of the field, double-file, on all restarts after a caution flag.

Those restarts often cause bumping late in races, and sometimes additional accidents.

"One of the great things NASCAR has done is the dual restarts," Smith said. "I look forward to those. We need to see more dual restarts. Three (per race) aren't enough. You need eight or 10 of them."

Smith said he wouldn't mind seeing a pseudo halftime at each race to cause an additional restart.

"If you have one every 20 laps, I don't care," Smith said. "It adds to the show. Someone once said we're in show business. Well, if we're in show business, let's deliver that show. Right now, we're not delivering it.

"Other sports have mandatory timeouts and TV timeouts. All that stuff creates things in those sports. We need to be creative in this sport."

Smith was asked if he has discussed his idea with NASCAR president Mike Helton.

"Maybe I did," Smith said. "Mike is a very good friend of mine and I have a great deal of respect for him. We talk to each other a lot."

NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said Friday: "We are constantly looking at ways to improve the racing. And we have mandatory cautions when we think it's needed at an event."

But those mandatory cautions usually are for safety reasons so teams can check their tires and officials can check track conditions.

Smith wants to see more race stoppages because he feels it would produce more on-track action. He also would like to see speeds reduced.

"I'd be in favor of that," Smith said. "But you have to have the cautions, even if they have to be mandatory. It's a timeout. That's what it's going to take."

SMI recently made major track changes at Bristol Motor Speedway, a high-banked, .533 mile oval, hoping to produce more bumping and banging that many fans loved at that track.

"And I've been promised (by Goodyear officials) a softer tire for Bristol in the August race," Smith said. "We need that, and yeah, we'll have it."

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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