Dale Earnhardt Jr. has lived the yellow line controversy before

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In wading into the controversial yellow-line penalty issued Sunday to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in The Clash, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is speaking from experience.

In his fourth consecutive victory at Talladega Superspeedway nearly 15 years ago, Earnhardt went below the yellow line while passing Matt Kenseth for first and led the final two laps. He wasn’t penalized.

There are some parallels to the penalty Stenhouse received Sunday for driving below the yellow line to complete a pass of Busch. In both instances, Kenseth and Busch moved down the banking and then swerved back up when they seemed to realize a car was on the inside.

Compare the incidents in these videos (the Earnhardt pass occurs at the 3:14:30 mark):

There are some critical distinctions:

–Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford swooped down from much higher up the track — about three lanes — than Busch, whose No. 18 Toyota was in the lane above Stenhouse’s No. 17 Ford.

–Stenhouse’s tires were below the yellow line earlier roughly when his Ford had just cleared the left-rear quarter panel of Busch’s Toyota. The left front of Earnhardt’s No. 8 Chevrolet doesn’t dip under the yellow line until the car is nearly even with Kenseth’s car.

But in both cases, Earnhardt and Stenhouse went below the yellow line before clearing the car above them.

NASCAR even conceded this after Earnhardt’s victory in explaining why it didn’t issue a penalty.

“This was a judgment call very obviously,” late spokesman Jim Hunter said. “There is no question that [Earnhardt] went below the yellow line. … He already had passed (Kenseth).”

“I ran [below the line] to keep from running into him,” Earnhardt said after the race. “By that time, I was already past him.”

Before that April 6, 2003 race at Talladega, drivers were given the same ground rules by NASCAR in the prerace meeting: Cars that improved their position by crossing the yellow line would be black-flagged.

Reaction from other drivers after the race was mixed. Jimmie Johnson, who led a race-high 65 laps and had been battling with Kenseth for the lead, said Earnhardt “was clearly below the yellow line. I didn’t think it was a legal pass.” Asked afterward if he would make the same maneuver, runner-up Kevin Harvick said, “that’s a good question. I’ll plead the fifth on that one.”

Sunday’s race promises to spark a new round of questions from drivers, who could be seeking clarification from NASCAR on judgment calls made in a game of inches at 200 mph.

Stenhouse posted on Twitter that his only option would have been to wreck the field by holding his line and making contact with Busch. NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell has said Stenhouse could have avoided a penalty by immediately yielding the spots he gained on the pass.

“It is a judgment call, and people are mostly going to disagree when we make judgment calls, but that’s OK,” O’Donnell said during his weekly spot with “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We try to be clear as we can in the drivers meeting that if you go below the yellow line, you cannot advance your position. In this case, we saw (Stenhouse) go below the yellow line, advance the position.

“When we have not made the call is if that position is given up or if that car kind of backs off and gives that position back, we’ve been OK with it historically. That didn’t happen, so in this case we had to make the call. We viewed it as a pass that was maintained below the yellow line.”

NASCAR has been enforcing the yellow line rule since the July 2001 race at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR America Scan All: Kyle Busch wants to know if he got a one- or two-fingered salute

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“P17; you’re making really good time,” Kyle Busch’s spotter Adam Stevens told Busch as he blasted through the field on his way to winning a third consecutive race in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.

“Was that a two-fingered or a one-fingered salute,” Busch replied about his experience in traffic.

“The 42 dove-bombed us a little bit, but the 41’s the one that got us,” Jamie McMurray was told by his spotter.

But McMurray was still upset about an earlier incident when the two were racing for the free pass.

“Jamie’s trying to tear up our car now,” Kyle Larson said after getting run into by his teammate. “I got damage on my left side from him.”

Here are some of the other scanner highlights:

• “We got a penalty,” Rodney Childers told Kevin Harvick. “The wedge wrench went over the wall.”
• “Good, we’re coming from the back,” Harvick replied. “That’s what, three or four weeks in a row? I’m used to it.”
• “That 31’s fighting the hell out of the 78,” Childers reported.
• “I’m sorry about all that,” Larson said after missing pit road twice. “I braked later than I did there. Those two times, I just wheel hopped.”
• “That’s pathetic,” Aric Almirola said. “I don’t know how we can be that good for 200 laps and that bad after that.”

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Matt DiBenedetto will pay tribute to Jeff Burton in Southern 500

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For several years, the Southern 500 has given drivers an opportunity to pay tribute to the legends of NASCAR and this year, Matt DiBenedetto will pay homage to Jeff Burton’s No. 99 from the 2000 Cup season.

“You have no clue how excited I am about this one,” Matt DiBenedetto said. “I’ve been wanting to do this one for a while.

“This actually has a back story on it. And this is what got me into NASCAR and into racing. And the first car that I liked – I bought the diecast cars for – this is like really close to my heart.”

“It’s really exciting for me,” Jeff Burton said in a taped interview. “That 2000 paint scheme was really popular with Jeff Burton fans and Exide Racing fans back in the day. A lot of good things happened that year. We won several races that year.”

Burton won four races that year and finished second on five other occasions.

Burton didn’t win the Southern 500 that year, but he came close – finishing second to teammate Mark Martin.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: A Matt Kenseth return to Roush Fenway Racing would mean …


Roush Fenway Racing will make what it is calling a major partner announcement at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and a report states that it will include details on Matt Kenseth returning to drive for the team.

NASCAR on NBC’s Nate Ryan reported Tuesday that Roush Fenway Racing declined comment on SB Nation’s report that Kenseth would run select races for Trevor Bayne beginning May 12 at Kansas Speedway. Ryan reported that multiple principles, including a former Roush Fenway Racing driver will be at Wednesday’s announcement.

Kenseth, who turned 46 in March, won Cup Rookie of the Year honors with Roush Fenway Racing in 2000 and remained there through the 2012 season.

Kenseth left for Joe Gibbs Racing and raced there from 2013-17. He was replaced after last season in the No. 20 car by Erik Jones, leaving Kenseth without a full-time ride for this season.

NASCAR on NBC’s Kyle Petty said on NASCAR America that should the report of Kenseth’s return to Roush Fenway Racing be true, it would provide a nice homecoming.

“He knows the players,’’ Petty said of Kenseth. “He knows everything about the place. He grew up there. He came of age there. He won (a) championship. He won races there. So from all those pieces, it makes sense for a guy like Matt Kenseth to go back there just as it would if Jeff Gordon said I want to go back to Hendrick. It makes perfect sense. But only Matt can answer that question (of why).’’

Ryan noted it is not unusual for teams to put another driver in a car to benchmark that car’s performance.

Bayne is 26th in the points. The 2011 Daytona 500 winner has not finished better than 12th (Texas) this season. Every driver ahead of him in the points has at least one top-10 finish this season.

“Even in a part-time basis, what could he bring?’’ Petty said of Kenseth. “He brings so much. It’s an intangible. I think we saw it when he went to Joe Gibbs Racing. What did he bring there? That team just, all of a sudden, just took off. Was it all Matt Kenseth? No, but it’s part Matt Kenseth, it’s part that knowledge, it’s part that experience, it’s part that desire to run up front, win races and build something and I think Matt felt he had built something that first go around.’’

Kenseth scored the 39th Cup win of his career in November at Phoenix. A week before that win, Kenseth talked to Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC podcast about realizing the end of his career seemed near.

“But like I said, I feel like the way things have gone that for whatever reason — reasons I don’t understand that I think will become really, really clear in the future — that it’s just not meant for me to race next year,” Kenseth said. “I think it’s that simple. Everything lined up this way because I wasn’t going to make the decision myself, so someone made it for me. It’s just not supposed to happen.”

Car owner Joe Gibbs said Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he would look forward to a return by Kenseth to Cup.

“I’ve got to tell you I would love it,’’ Gibbs said. “What a great guy, a great person, a great representative for the sport and for sponsors and extremely competitive. I would love that, and I hope that is going to be the case. I hope he can be there on a steady basis.

“It would be a thrill for us to have Matt back. I think he’s a real credit to the NASCAR Series and love the family. I think that would be great for us. I hope that’s going to be the case. I hope he gets to run a bunch of races.’’

For more, watch the video above.

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Deontay Wilder named Geico 500 honorary pace car driver

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
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Talladega SuperSpeedway has a reputation for delivering blows to the competition, so it is only fitting that the honorary pace car driver for the Geico 500 will be a man known to deliver knockouts to his opponents. Reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) World Heavyweight Champion and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native Deontay Wilder will pace the field before the initial green flag Sunday.

Wilder, 32, has a record of 40-0 with 39 of his wins by knockout.

Known as the “Bronze Bomber” because of the 2008 Bronze medal he won in the Beijing Olympics, Wilder found boxing as a way to provide for a daughter diagnosed with spina bifida. He immediately found that he was a natural by scoring a technical knockout over Ethan Cox in November, 2008.

Wilder has held the title since January 2015 after defeating Bermane Stiverne in his only bout that was not decided by a knockout. Wilder scored a unanimous decision and has defended his belt seven times since.