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Again, why not race back to the line on the last lap?

By admin | July 7, 2008

By Richard Allen


After the Aaron’s 499 in Talladega I wrote a blog that asked, ‘Why not race back to the line on the last lap?’ Well, after another restrictor plate race I find myself again asking the same question.

In the previous article I stated my case that on the last lap of a race drivers should race back to the finish line if a wreck occurs behind the lead pack.

In the 2007 Daytona 500 NASCAR did exactly what it should have, they let Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin race to the line. That line is called the finish line for a reason. It is where the race is supposed to finish, not coming out of turn 4 or in the middle of turns 1 and 2.

Now, I realize that NASCAR dug itself into a bit of a hole by creating the loop scoring system then seemingly not abiding by their own rule in the 2007 Daytona 500 but look how many times that finish has been replayed. It was exciting to see those two cars captured on film crossing the finish line inches apart.

NASCAR did throw the caution in that race when the car of Clint Bowyer flipped and had a flash fire. That is what they should have done then and it is what they should do every time if such a situation occurs again.

However, in the Talladega race there was nothing of the kind going on, but the caution was waved and we had to rely on replays with a crew of announcers in the television booth suddenly pretending to be race officials determining when the yellow light came on and who was ahead at that moment.

A finish line is absolute. The first car to cross it is the winner. There is no guess work. There is no questioning whether a light came on and when it came on.

In Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 the same thing happened again. In turn 1 of the last lap with Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards running side by side a wreck occurred behind them. What could have been another heart stopping photo finish was again turned into a television crew pretending to be officials and acting as if they had the power to determine race winners.

When this subject is brought up people often act as if those who argue in favor of racing back to the line want the race to go on even when lives are hanging in the balance. Of course, that is not the case. In any situation in which a driver may be in jeopardy NASCAR should put the caution flag out and get the safety crews to the scene as quickly as possible, no matter what the lap.

But that was not the case in Talladega and it was not the case in Daytona.

NASCAR allowed racing to the line during all cautions for over five decades. That practice was stopped, and rightfully so, after an incident in New Hampshire.

However, in a video discussion on the same topic after Talladega I heard one person say that NASCAR quit racing to the line because Dale Jarrett was T-Boned in New Hampshire. Jarrett’s car did sit in a dangerous spot but he was not T-Boned, or even slightly hit.

I would not disagree with the practice of slowing cars immediately and freezing the field when an incident occurs at any other point during a race, but on the last lap NASCAR needs to hold on to the caution flag unless they see someone in obvious danger. Otherwise, all races need to end where they are meant to end, the finish line.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

*Video of Dale Jarrett’s New Hampshire crash.

Topics: Articles |

6 Responses to “Again, why not race back to the line on the last lap?”

  1. Don Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 5:01 am

    Why didn’t they? They had the car in front that they wanted to win the race, that’s why.

  2. Rick Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 6:48 am


  3. MïK Watson Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Why don’t they race back to the finish? Because there is someone on the track that is a hazard to the racers, that’s why! For 5 decades, the NASCAR community just shook their collective heads and bemoan the fact that a racer died because of the racing around them. Horrific fires killed many while the fire equipment had to dodge racecars to get there.

    The GWC finish is the best that can be done as a subsitute fo9r racing to the line. The one time, recently, that NASCAR held off the caution, there was an outcry by the likes of you that they weren’t consistent!

    I do agree that, if the wreck’s in turn three, behind the leaders, then holding the flag is a good idea. BUT! It’s a judgement for the moment! You can’t have a rule about it! NASCAR has to make that call, whether you like it or not.

    Mandating when the flag gets thrown will only cause more instances of name-calling by the likes of you. I prefer GWC, as a second-best arrangement , to watching a racer die in a fire because they’re racing to the line.

  4. Richard Allen Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    When I first started this website I decided that only when a direct question was asked of me was I going to respond in the comments section.

    Being a message board participant I was afraid it would open a door that I’m not sure I wanted to enter if I began to respond to the responses. I did not really want this space to become a message board.

    That being said, I feel compelled to respond to Mik Watson’s comments.

    For one, I do not know what “the likes of me” did after the 2007 Daytona 500 but I wrote a column for my newspaper, The Mountain Press, praising NASCAR for letting the finish play out as it did and for not being so rigid.

    I have written other columns asking NASCAR to be inconsistent at times(like the case of the Robby Gordon penalty in Daytona this year).

    Secondly, I clearly stated 3 different times in this article that NASCAR should go ahead and throw the caution when it is obvious that a driver is in trouble like the Clint Bowyer situation, no matter what lap.

    And, I’m only suggesting that racing back to the line take place on the last lap, no other time.

  5. Steve Meyer Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I couldn’t agree more about racing back to the line on the last lap. The rules in their current state take all of the drama out of the finish! The odds of a wreck happening are very high on the last lap because everyone is letting it all hang out! We went decades racing back to the finish line with no problems. Yes, the Dale Jarret incident that started all of this looked scary, but in that case, the race could have been frozen. NASCAR needs to really look at this rule. there has to be a balance as far as keeping the race entertaining. We all go to see them cross the finish line! I would also like to see atleast two attempts at a green white checkered!

  6. Charles Says:
    July 9th, 2008 at 6:44 am

    You are right, the finish line needs to be where Nascar draws the line to determine the winner!
    I think it would be better for the fans and simpler to do, if we are going to finish under the green flag, when a wreck happens throw out the yellow, then restart it until it finishs and the car that crosses the line in front wins!
    This freezing the field at the scoring loops is not the right way for the paying fans to see an end of the race!