By admin | February 14, 2011
By Richard Allen
After last year’s Bud Shootout NASCAR made a change in the way they conduct their races when they added the multiple green/white/checkered rule so that fans would have the opportunity to witness a race to the finish line rather than a coast to complete the distance.
This most recent edition of the Bud Shootout should once again bring about a change.
At the end of Saturday night’s race, a NASCAR rule that has on more than one occasion been open to controversy was again exposed. As four cars raced to the finish line Denny Hamlin dove below Ryan Newman and just edged him, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray to the checkered flag. However, as he passed his three competitors, Hamlin went below the yellow line painted on the inside of the track.
On NASCAR’s two restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega the sanctioning body has deemed that driving too low on the track has resulted in too many crashes. Thus, a rule was made that declared advancing one’s position below the yellow that separates the racing groove from the track apron to be illegal.
As has been the case in previous rulings, controversy ensued after Hamlin’s move was disallowed. Debate came as replays seemed to at least show the possibility that the #11 car was in the lead before going below the line.
What adds to the controversy is the fact that this rule has been sparingly enforced. For example, in 2003 at Talladega Dale Earnhardt, Jr. passed Matt Kenseth with two wheels below the yellow line but the pass was allowed to stand as Junior went on to win the race.
A 2008 Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona had a three wide finish with the truck to the inside below the yellow line. NASCAR responded that, “They were racing for the win on the last lap” and took no action.
However, in the fall of 2008 Regan Smith was denied a victory when he went below the yellow line to pass Tony Stewart on the final lap. NASCAR president Mike Helton issued the following statement after the Talladega ruling, “Since the end of the race there has been some confusion as to what is allowable during the last lap at Daytona and Talladega. To be clear, as we go forward, there will be no passing under the yellow line at any time during NASCAR races at Daytona or Talladega, period. This includes any passing below the yellow line near the start/finish line on the final lap.”
After the Bud Shootout NASCAR official John Darby stated that the sanctioning body has been consistent in its rulings regarding the yellow line. Please let the above examples provide the rebuttal to Mr. Darby’s statement.
The easiest solution would be for NASCAR to simply allow drivers to ‘Have at it’ on the last lap. When racing to the line drivers do not need to have to worry about crossing some arbitrary line. Also, no line means no judgment call for an organization that finds a way to leave itself open to legitimate criticism every time it makes a judgment call.
The bottom line(pun intended) is this. On the final lap of NASCAR races held at Daytona and Talladega, the yellow line needs to fade to black.
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