2014 Food City 500: 'Stupid error' results in accidental caution, confusing finish

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

An official accidently turned on the caution lights with two laps to go in Sunday’s NASCAR race.

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With two laps to go in the Food City 500, the caution lights began blinking around Bristol Motor Speedway.

That and of itself is not unusual, as the half-mile oval is one of NASCAR's more treacherous tracks. But, in this instance there was no apparent reason for officials to throw a caution. There was no rain -- the race had been delayed earlier due to a heavy downfall --  nor was there any debris on the track or stalled cars needing immediate assistance.

"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."-NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton

Instead, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton explained that an official in the flagstand inadvertently leaned on the override switch to trigger the caution lights around the 0.533-mile track. Six seconds later the flagman waved the yellow flag, freezing the field as Carl Edwards was leading handily.

Officials were prepared to restart the race using a green-white-checkered finish, but shortly thereafter heavy rain forced NASCAR to call the race.

"Most of the flag stands have a manual override for the caution lights, and due to the weather and due to other things, it wasn't secured properly, and the flag person leaned against the switch and turned the caution lights on," Pemberton said.

"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."

Pemberton called the incident a learning experience and said an investigation will take place to determine what can be done to prevent future occurrences.

The person who was most effected was Edwards, who had a sizeable lead at the time the caution lights were illuminated. He assumed, naturally, NASCAR would restart the race and was expecting chaos to unfold.

"I did not want to see that caution," Edwards said. "I did not at all. So I'm glad that the rain came. I think there was some higher powers at work. That worked out great."

Edwards' teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was running second and would have restarted alongside Edwards on the subsequent restart. Stenhouse, who has never won a Sprint Cup race, admitted afterward he would have used force to pass Edwards for the win if need be.

Luckily for NASCAR and Edwards' sake that did not occur thanks to the rain which prevented a major embarrassment.

"There's two very happy people in this room right now," said Pemberton referencing Edwards, who was awaiting his turn to meet the media for the winner's post-race press conference, "and the next one will be up here in a second."

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