But in the aftermath of Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton came as close to an official “mea culpa” as most observers of the sport can ever recall. Asked about the sanctioning body’s failure to throw the caution flag when Danica Patrick crashed on the final lap and coated the fourth turn with oil, Pemberton said officials misinterpreted the smoke trailing from Patrick’s No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet.
"At the time, she came all the way around (Turn Four) and was out of harm's way," he said. "We didn't see any fluid or anything. She rode around on the apron and when she pulled up on the racetrack, there was smoke. But it looked like tire smoke.
"It's easy to look back on it and wish that you did something different," said Pemberton of a final-lap crash that demolished at least a half-dozen cars, including Patrick’s disabled racer. "But at the time, it didn't appear like there was any fluid that was coming out of the car."