Nobody really wants to see a driver wreck a competitor on the final lap coming to the finish line to win a race, and nobody really wants to see cars flying up into grandstands from said last lap accidents. Well, apparently nobody but NASCAR.
At least that is the message conveyed with their incredulous ruling Saturday night at the Budweiser Shootout.
Denny Hamlin made a late, daring, and pretty doggone good move heading to the tri-oval to take the checkered flag Saturday night. Unfortunately, it was too good of a move. Not only did he manage to get underneath race leader Ryan Newman, he managed to do so without turning Newman sideways. If you recall, Brad Keselowski was not able to execute a similar pass at Talladega a couple of years ago.
The only reason Hamlin did not turn Newman sideways is because Ryan Newman crowded Hamlin, moving down the race track, eventually eliminating all the “in bounds” asphalt from Hamlin’s disposal. Newman’s actions forced Hamlin to drop beneath the yellow line in the tri-oval as he pulled ahead of and up in front of Newman while barely beating Kurt Busch to the finish line.
Or, well, I guess “forced” isn’t the proper word here. At least that’s apparently how NASCAR unbelievably saw it. I suppose Hamlin could have held his line, kept his car “in bounds”, and when Newman made his move to crowd Hamlin down the track, simply let Ryan Newman wreck himself, and likely several other cars.
So, Newman gave Hamlin two choices. Wreck Newman, or go below the yellow line, avoid an accident, and ultimately see a victory turn into a 12th place finish thanks to the forthcoming penalty from NASCAR.
That there can be such a choice is appalling.
Supposedly, as a part of the yellow line rule, there is also a rule stipulating that while you are not allowed to go below the yellow line and advance your position, you are also not to force someone else down there.
Well, I don’t know about you, but when one car is beside another, as Hamlin was with Newman, and when said car got underneath the driver in bounds at the outset, to then see Newman’s left side tires hugging the yellow line, all the way on the bottom of the track, it seems pretty cut and dry what took place. Where was Hamlin supposed to go at this point? He physically could NOT move up the track back in bounds, Ryan Newman occupied the very bottom line, despite the fact that Hamlin had the right to that part of the racetrack thanks to his move off turn four to get under Newman.
Now, this is not to bash Ryan Newman, or call him a dirty driver, or anything of the sort. However, it is to say that if a rule was broken here, it was by Newman.
Then again, I guess this comes back to “forced” not being the appropriate term. I suppose it’s the loophole NASCAR has in the rule to where they never actually have to penalize a driver for “forcing” someone below the yellow line, as they can always say, “well, he could have simply held his ground”. Technically, yes, Hamlin could have held his ground.
And we’d have wrecked racecars. I guess that’s what NASCAR wants.
I for one find the yellow line rule pointless and silly. However, I also understand why it’s in place. The problem is the enforcement of it is absolutely pathetic. In the very least, if it’s the white lap, I think the rule should be done away with entirely.
How many Daytona 500 wins would Jeff Gordon have with such a rule? Gordon’s daring 1999 three wide move on Rusty Wallace and Mike Skinner couldn’t happen under these rules, and that’s a shame too. It’s regarded as one of the finest Daytona 500s of all-time, and Gordon’s daring pass is considered one of the greatest moves the sport has ever seen.
Donnie and Cale in 1979? Couldn’t have happened, because they wouldn’t have ever gotten close to the grass.
Come next Sunday in the Daytona 500, what’s a driver going to do off of turn four? Are they going to be willing to risk being run down below the yellow line, and thus potentially losing 20 positions and all the points that go with it thanks to a penalty? Or will they just wreck whichever driver it is trying to crowd them out of room? Or will they just sit in line and take their 2nd place finish?
That one has to even question this is inexcusable, and falls completely at the all too often inept feet of NASCAR.