Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yellow line rule: Here we go again

   It's become almost as much of a trademark of restrictor-plate racing as "the Big One."

   We can't get through a season without a controversy - or creating one - having to do with NASCAR's yellow-line rule.

   For those new to the sport - since the rule has been in place for nearly a decade now - that means drivers cannot advance their position on the track at Daytona or Talladega by passing below the yellow line (drivers can also be penalized for forcing others below the yellow line).

   So, here we are at the 2011 season's first event, the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, and on the last lap Denny Hamlin dives below the yellow line to pass Ryan Newman in hopes of winning the race. NASCAR calls him on it and black-flags him. Kurt Busch becomes the winner.

   Kurt Busch won at approximately 10:03 p.m. Saturday night. The first motorsports media member lamented about the finish and took up Hamlin's cause at 10:12 p.m. (I was shocked it took that long).

   The rule is silly when racing for the win, they say. Anything should go at the end of a race, they say. Hamlin eventually chimed in himself later, claiming he would have sent Ryan Newman's car airborne if he didn't duck under the yellow line at the last minute.

   Nice one Hamlin. Defending your actions by claiming you may have sent a competitor's car airborne - the greatest fear at tracks like Daytona and Talladega - was self-serving at it's best, but I digress.

   Back to the yellow line rule. In the 2008 Trucks season opener at Daytona, three trucks crossed the finish line three-wide, with one below the yellow line. All were allowed to keep their respective finishing positions because "they were racing for the win on the last lap."

   Months later, Regan Smith used that same move to pass Tony Stewart for the win at the conclusion of a Cup race at Talladega, Ala., but that time NASCAR said no. To help end the confusion, NASCAR President Mike Helton issued the following statement:

   "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."

   Folks, that's about as clear cut as it gets. And by the way, that's how rules should be - the less ambiguity the better.

   Because some fans and media didn't like the finish of the Shootout - or perhaps who won it - NASCAR is being prompted to flip-flop its rule again.

   I don't have any problem with people who think the yellow line rule itself should be changed. The fact it is, however, it exists and existed Saturday night, so that argument in respect to what took place in the Shootout is irrelevant.

   The only question is did NASCAR follow its own rules it has laid out in this case and it certainly did.

   Case closed.



  1. I really do not remember why the line started. But I think the reason was that drivers were on the apron in the turns and spun out up to the wall and caused accidents. Having said that though, just look at all the accidents at Daytona and Dega the last few years that had nothing to do with the yellow line. I go back awhile and remember a senior driver of the 71 Dave Marcis taking a spin. Heck, even in the 2001 race Tony Stewart went airborne with about 20 to go next to the wall. The list goes on I guess. I do not think there should be a line. And if there was no line we would not have this post and comment.

    Happy for Dale Jr. , he has the pole for the 500 next week.

  2. I think it's time for NEW motorsports media members!!! Denny Hamlin was and IS STUPID for doing what he did!

    If you did not have a line, the driver being passed, by the driver going below that "so called" line, would push the passing driver into the grass...CAUSING WRECKS!!!

    Keep the line......Race and pass ONLY on the RACING SURFACE!!!

    It's a fact....On the last lap many drivers have the car, the skill, speed and handling to WIN the race.....unfortunately the RACING SURFACE is three, maybe four lanes wide. A race at any NASCAR track is determined by what 3 or 4 drivers are up front when the checkered flag falls.

    Just look at the facts and history!

  3. Umm case is not closed. The truck race at Talledega last year Kyle Busch won going below the yellow. The ruling was he was past Eric Almirola and. Did not improve his position, much like Denny Hamlin on Sunday. So the only cased closed here is Nascar is consistantly inconsistant

  4. I don't know why everything is so technical lately. Racing is all about getting to the finish line first. But the yellow line goes against that basic principle of racing. The guy that gets to the line first should win. I don't care if it's on the track, below the line or on the grass. That's the thrill of racing, right? Either way, there will be blocking and a wreck. But that is the danger of racing every driver is willing to take when they step into that car.

    If NASCAR just lets the drivers race, the bickering will end.

  5. Mike Helton lied. Ramsey Posten had said in 2008 that the yellow line rule did not apply on the final lap. Not only is this NOT "case closed," it is yet another example of NASCAR's insane fetish for the officiating tower control as much racing as it can corrupting the integrity of the competition.

    The rule was never put in place for any safety issue - it was put in place in April 2001 to appease drivers at Talladega because of the rumor the drivers would park out after the start of the race. It gave the officiating tower a new level of control of the racing it had not had before and has no right to have then or now.

    NASCAR was and is wrong here.

  6. Here's the bottom line Jim - if you want credibility, do not be a toady to Mike Helton here - call him out that this rule is bogus.