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Yet another plate race ends with questions about the yellow line

By admin | April 17, 2011

By Richard Allen


It has become an all too often occurrence. It seems as though at least one of the four restrictor plate races each year ends with some sort of a controversy about NASCAR’s out of bounds rule.

At the restrictor plate tracks of Talladega and Daytona, NASCAR has decreed that the yellow line painted around the inside of those tracks is out of bounds. A driver may not advance his position by going below the yellow line.

On occasion, that rule has been enforced. In particular, in 2008 when Regan Smith went below the line to pass Tony Stewart on the last lap at Talladega his move was disallowed and Stewart was declared the winner.

In Sunday’s Aarons 499 at the Talladega Super Speedway, Jimmie Johnson won one of the closest races in NASCAR history with a last lap pass that resulted in a four-wide finish. However, coming into the tri-oval section of the 2.66 mile track, Johnson went low to move around Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. In so doing, his left side tires clearly went onto the yellow line.

In football or basketball, being on the line is out of bounds. In baseball, on the line is fair while completely over the line is foul. Trouble with NASCAR is, they have never clearly defined where out of bounds is. Is it on the line? Is it over the line? Are two wheels out of bounds or does it take all four? They leave enough ambiguity in the rule so as to make it a judgment call rather than a black and white ruling.

In my opinion, the best thing to do with the yellow line rule would be to get rid of it all together in the final laps of a plate race. But since NASCAR probably won’t do that, they need to at least clearly define what they mean by out of bounds. And most importantly, they need to enforce it consistently.

Almost immediately after the race on Sunday there were cries on social network sites that, “NASCAR would never take a win away from Johnson or Rick Hendrick by ruling the 48 car out of bounds.” If NASCAR wants to avoid such criticisms they need to be clear and open about their rules.

I am not saying that Johnson’s pass was legal or not. Nor am I saying his win should be taken away. I can’t say either of those things because the rule is not clearly defined enough for me or anyone else to know the answer.

The sanctioning body’s less than open rulebook has been called into question in other instances this season. The previously mentioned Johnson disagreed with a ruling that he was too fast on pit road earlier this year and NASCAR seemed to do its best to keep its pit road speed gauges a closely guarded secret rather than make the telemetry available for all to see.

NASCAR has somewhat of a history of less than open judgments being handed down. Either they actually are doing these things so that they can favor certain teams and drivers or they are completely oblivious to the fact that such secrecy gives the appearance of favoritism whether it exists or not.

Any sport that wishes to be taken seriously must have clearly defined rules that are consistently enforced. Otherwise, the sport in question falls into the same category as professional wrestling.

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14 Responses to “Yet another plate race ends with questions about the yellow line”

  1. Nan Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 12:20 am

    There is a difference of going below the yellow line and touching the yellow line.

    The replays show that Johnson DID NOT go BELOW the yellow line. If anything his left tires might have been on the first line but not over the double yellow lines.

    A difference between his and Regan Smith who went BELOW the yellow line.

    If Nascar wanted to fix the race they would have found a way to give Jr the win. Oh boy can you imagine the tv ratings going up with Jr winning. BTW I am a Jr fan before anyone wants to start dishing it out.

    To the Naysayer the race was won with a hard fought battle by two drivers 48/88, great job guys.

  2. tyler west Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 6:12 am

    The race was awesome but anyone who thinks NASCAR will ever go against Hendrick is fooling themselves. They have penalized drivers in the past at plate races for being on the line. That is a fact. But they shy away from drivers and teams who have popularity on their side (like junior or anyone associated with Hendrick) Out of bounds should be thrown out with the trash. I don’t like the out of bounds rule, it’s garbage! Let these guys run anywahere they see fit. Too bad all the other tracks don’t produce the type of racing Daytona and Talladega do.
    Another thing I sick of hearing the commentators talk about is the “pod” racing, drafting is drafting! Who cares if two cars or two rows of 15 to 20 cars. It’s all the same, its awesome. I think its better because you don’t have half the field getting destroyed in one accident. The restrictor plate races have been amazing and always will be!

  3. Charles Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 6:53 am

    178mph for pole?????? Lets see I beleive the last time they run that slow to qualify for a 2.5 mile track was in the mid sixties!

    To me taking the speed out of the race and it really showed at this race, takes all the prestage out of the race! Dont care about the closing rate of two car racing or what ever, it was very slow and showed on TV!

    Infact the last lap looked like a “photo opp” not race to finish!

    Where is all the announcers who were engine gurus at Daytona with the Ford FR9 engine? This is a perfect example when Chevy wins its Hendrick or ECR engines, but they dominated qualifiying, leading laps, and top 5 positions! 70% of the races won at Talledaga! The Chevy “RO7 Engine”, has a advantage over the other makes and has for years!

    As for the yellow line, Nascar needs to get rid of it!

  4. marc Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 8:28 am

    and got some news play this am –so i guess the fix worked .too bad the stands were empty ..all though the last lap looked kinda like a normal roll up to the stop light deal ,, oh say how fast was that last lap ??? erer can we have some real racing now ???

  5. Kyle Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I don’t know where you’ve been, but the rule as been clearly defined several times. Hell, I can still imagine Larry Mac’s analogy the first time he broke it all down. The left sides cannot cross the DOUBLE LINES! I thought that was common knowledge between even casual race fans (though I am far from just casual).

  6. Richard Allen Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 9:14 am


    As much he might like to think of himself as such, Larry McReynolds is hardly an official representative of NASCAR. The yellow line rule has never been clearly stated. Most importantly, it has never been consistently enforced.

    Whether NASCAR intends it to look this way or not, the rulings they make give the appearance that when Regan Smith goes below the line it’s illegal but when Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhard, Jr. do so it is not illegal.

  7. midasmicah Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Talladega used to be “white knuckle” racing. Now it’s, “two in a tango holding hands”. And believe me, nas$car’s love fest with Hendrick will not change. I watched the last 12 laps after checking in to see what was going on every now and then. Throw out the yellow line rule and quit making the restrictor plates so small that the only way you’re going to get any speed up is with “mini drafts”.

  8. Glen H Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Every major sport, and all other motorsports, have their rules right out in the open for all to see which is why NA$CAR is starting to be considered racertainment and not a serious sport.

    NA$CAR has a credibility issue and if they were more transparent with the rules and consistent with enforcing them, they might be get some of that credibility back. Until then, well, they’re looking more and more like the WWE.

  9. joebob Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I only saw one replay but he did drop below the yellow line but he did NOT pass anyone while below the line. I also have to give credit to Mark Martin. Although he gave them a small opening if he dropped down to protect the line he would have wiped out all four Hendrick cars and probably Bowyer as well.
    I think at those high speeds and Jr. told JJ not to lift, there were not a lot of options. It was not really something JJ had total control of the situation and it the only way out was touching the yellow line, I think NASCAR understands that no matter who owns the teams.

  10. Kevin Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I think it is hilarious how Jimmie Johnson can get penalized for speeding on pit road during one race, which cost him the opportunity to win the race. The next race, when there is no CLEAR violation of the rules, everyone claims that NASCAR is favouring Hendrick & Jimmie and they would never take a win away from him so they let him break the rules. Yet they clearly enforced the rules for something that no one would ever have known about a couple weeks before. Enough of the conspiracy theories. And also; I killed JFK.
    Just want to point out Richard, the week after Johnson’s speeding penalty, NASCAR brought the camera’s into the NASCAR control booth during the next weeks race so the camera would be able to show the fans exactly what NASCAR sees in the booth as far as speeders on pit road go. I thought that was pretty open of them. And I buy their explaination as to why they do not make them public in that some teams have a strategy as a way to tackle pit road and they do not want to give that strategy away to other competitors.

  11. Mike Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Yes Johnson’s tire did come on to the yellow line but that was when Mark tried to block him, Mark realized he couldn’t and he gave him the room to come back up to make the CLEAN Pass for the win.

    You have a great Finish that ties the record for the shortest margin of victory and all you can write about is a theory on the yellow line? Yeah must be a slow news day.

  12. Dannyboy Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Apart from the fact that (others’ defective eyesight notwithstanding) JJ’s left tires did not go BELOW the line.
    His tweak to the left was in sync with Martin’s block attempt. As soon as Mark stabilized behind Jeff, Jimmie stabilized ABOVE the line, and THEN passed Jeff.

    In fact, after looking at it a few times, Martin’s blocking move may have separated him from Gordon’s rear bumper, slowing both down enough to give the win to the 48.

  13. Allen Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I am a fan of the Hendrick teams but I wonder how both sets of cars stayed hooked up for the entire race even when they did not pit under caution.

  14. Harvick29 Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    It’s pretty obvious to anyone with f—ing vision that the 48 and his b—h self went below the yellow line after being a yellow belly the entire race in the back of the field.

    They got nothing to be proud of over there. The real winners yesterday were RCR and Dave Blaney.