RELATED: Smith talks Caution Clock
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Time became a new factor in NASCAR for the first time on Saturday, with the Caution Clock coming into play twice in the Camping World Truck Series Great Clips 200.
The first competition yellow on Lap 38 caused issues for Christopher Bell in terms of tire strategy. The second competition caution as the 20-minute clock expired also was tied to issues for Bell, but under the surface, was playing into every team's pit and tire strategy at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
NASCAR introduced the caution clock in 2016, starting at Daytona International Speedway. A 20-minute timer begins counting down at the beginning of each green-flag run. If no natural caution occurs before the clock runs out, a caution will come out, giving teams the opportunity to pit, change tires and make adjustments.
The Caution Clock yellow on Lap 38 came at exactly the wrong time for Bell, who was running second when a flat right front forced him to pit road on Lap 27.
The team got off tire strategy as the rest of the field capitalized on four fresh tires on the race's first restart. The No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota team got back on sequence with the field when William Byron's engine blew on Lap 60, bringing out the second caution of the race. He quickly moved back into the top five and was battling Matt Crafton for the lead by Lap 92.
Bell overshot his pit stall with the setting sun in his eyes and had to be backed up, losing valuable time and falling to fifth place for the restart on Lap 111.
That put Bell behind Crafton and Daniel Suarez for the restart, and as Bell aggressively pushed to regain the lead, he made contact with his teammate's No. 51 Tundra. That sparked a hard wreck that took out Crafton and Suarez, but Bell snuck through.
"We just had a tough day," Suarez said after being released from the infield care center. "We had the fastest truck."
Bell's luck ran out a few laps later as his right front tire went down, sending his Toyota hard into the outside wall.
Cameron Hayley was one of the drivers who got through that late wreck unscathed, and despite his own right front tire issues finished second.
Hayley said after the race that the Caution Clock affected all the teams Saturday, as it played heavily into tire strategy.
"It was definitely difficult. The tire was giving up really bad in the right front for a lot of us," Haley explained, saying the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Toyota didn't have a tire go down, but did have two right fronts wear all the way down to the cords.
"The thing with that Caution Clock was everyone was trying to make it to that Caution Clock, and today the tire just almost didn't make it to those 20 minutes," Hayley said. "So the challenge was we had to get there when we wanted to pit sooner."