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NASCAR yellow-line rule needs review

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17), Kevin Harvick (4) and Kyle Busch (18) in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 11, 2018 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17), Kevin Harvick (4) and Kyle Busch (18) in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 11, 2018 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

That pesky yellow-line rule that’s in place only at the NASCAR restrictor-plate tracks of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway reared its head Sunday during the 75-lap, 17-driver Advance Auto Parts Clash when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went below the line and advanced his position on Kyle Busch after Busch forced him “out of bounds.” You know, that yellow-line rule that prohibits drivers from advancing positions in the running order by passing below the yellow — or out-of-bounds — line. I thought that line also prohibited drivers from forcing a fellow-competitor below the line to keep that fellow-competitor from passing, but apparently I was mistaken.

I don’t feel bad about my mistake, though, because Dale Earnhardt Jr. made that same mistake. That became obvious when the former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver called for the abolishment of the rule in a Twitter exchange regarding the yellow-line rule between himself and NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell.

You may check out the exchange for yourself through Earnhardt’s or O’Donnell’s official Twitter at @DaleJr or @ODSteve, respectively, but here’s what I took away from their social-media conversation: Earnhardt doesn’t think it’s fair to penalize a driver, if he’s forced below the line, even if he advances his position. O’Donnell’s take leads to me to believe, though, that a driver advances his position below the line will be penalized. Forced down there? Oh well, tough.

So, what happened to that part of the rule that called for the driver forcing another below the yellow line to be penalized? Apparently, enforcement of that part of the rule is the discretion of a NASCAR official charged with making that call. According to the video shown in the pre-Clash drivers’ meeting, drivers going below the yellow line and advancing position “will” be penalized, while drivers forcing others below the line “may be” penalized. Really?!? Does that penalty for those doing the forcing depend on a NASCAR official’s mood at that particular time of day?

The yellow-line rule was instituted several years ago for safety reasons, and at the time, it made a lot of sense. Of course, that was when it seemed more certain that a driver forcing someone else below the line faced a penalty. But that seems to have gone out the window now, and the result is drivers avoiding being passed by forcing cars about to pass them below the line, taking the chance they won’t be penalized, and the drivers they’re forcing below the line considering a dangerous option — the option of the driver of the bottom hold his ground and stay about the line, even if the driver above them comes down.

Stenhouse served a pass-through penalty, and as a result, wound up two laps down in 16th at the end of the Clash. Busch, though, was not penalized. After the race, Stenhouse (@StenhouseJr) tweeted that next time, he’d just turn a driver who comes down on him and wreck the 17-car field. Stenhouse’s new plan seemed to get the seal of approval of driver-turned-broadcaster Jeff Gordon. Gordon responded to Stenhouse saying “that pretty much is your only option,” also via Twitter (@JeffGordonWeb).

Again, this rule originated for safety reasons. But doesn’t NASCAR’s latest stance negate safety, putting drivers in the position of considering turning a driver in the middle of a big back instead of going low to avoid causing the infamous “big one?” Yes, I’ve heard the stance that the bottom driver should just check up to avoid passing the driver above him. Ummm no, I don’t think checking up in the middle of a big pack is a good, safe idea, either.

I’m not going as far as Earnhardt by calling for the abolishment of the yellow-line rule, but I do think NASCAR needs to take a harder stance on penalized drivers who force others below the yellow line in attempts to avoid being passed by a faster car.

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Posted by on February 13, 2018. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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