Did phantom caution cost Kurt Busch win at Auto Club Speedway?

Kurt Busch heads to pit road under a late-race caution Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Was Kurt Busch robbed by a phantom debris caution just as he appeared to win the Auto Club 400 Sunday at Auto Club Speedway?


NASCAR says no.


Richard Buck, the managing director of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, said that he received "multiple reports" of debris that caused officials to throw the yellow flag on Lap 200 of the scheduled 200-lap race. Busch was leading at the time and led the subsequent restart, only to see a second caution come out on Lap 204, when body parts flew off the back of Kyle Larson’s car following contact with another car.


Busch, who led a race-high 65 laps, was passed on the final green-white-checkered restart by winner Brad Keselowski and second-place Kevin Harvick.


The caution for Larson’s contact was obvious; no debris was shown on the Lap 200 caution, however. But Buck said there was definitely debris.


"We got multiple reports over the radio and confirmed it," said Buck. "There was a piece of material — something — in the racing groove, and so we went ahead and called a caution. And by the time that we had called the caution, somebody had hit it."


Buck said he didn’t know what specifically the piece of debris was.


"I don’t have it back yet," Buck said. "I don’t have the piece back yet, but we always ask the safety and cleanup crews to return that stuff to us. But there were multiple reports."


Asked where the reports of debris came from, Buck described it as "a process."


"It’s pretty consistent," said Buck. "The driver will call it in, we’ll check with our turn spotters. That’s heard over the radio … so the teams know, in case there is a piece of debris that they need to know about for safety reasons, and then we’ll confirm it."

Race-winner Keselowski said he didn’t "remember how the race finished, let alone debris."


His crew chief, Paul Wolfe, said he heard discussion of the debris but didn’t actually see it.


"We hear them (NASCAR) talking about it on the radio, but I personally didn’t see it and don’t know,” said Wolfe. "But they call it when we’re listening on the scanners. We can hear guys looking for debris, but I didn’t see it."