NASCAR is taking steps toward abolishing its controversial overtime line effective immediately.
The decision was announced Wednesday afternoon, making the start-finish line the new location that signifies an official attempt. At tracks for the remainder of 2017, the start-finish line will serve as the overtime line.
NASCAR overtime procedures remain in place so if a leader passes the start-finish line, the next flag will end the race.
“NASCAR has been looking at the overtime procedure for quite some time,” Chief Racing Development Officer and executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said in a statement. “After many discussions with key figures throughout the industry, we recognize that having the start-finish line serve as the standard overtime line position will benefit the race – and, most importantly, our fans. We are implementing this immediately, starting with this weekend’s races at Watkins Glen International.”
The overtime line, which typically is located just past the halfway point of the backstretch, caused a stir in Cup Series finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway and the Xfinty race at Daytona Speedway International Speedway. In each instance, the yellow flag flew shortly after the leader crossed the line making the attempt at a race official.
In using the overtime line as the designator for officially ending a race, NASCAR essentially is reverting to its green-white-checkered policy prior from 2010-15. Instead of three attempts at making at least one lap under green, there now will be unlimited attempts at reaching the start-finish line on the first lap to make an overtime official.
NASCAR chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast last month that the overtime line likely would revert to the start-finish line by next season.
Driver council came up with the overtime line. I was in heavy favor of it, at Daytona and Dega in particular. It failed as a solution. https://t.co/4aBtB9dWdt
A new location for the overtime line. The elimination of the splitter within a few seasons. A visor camera for every Monster Energy Cup driver in the field.
During his guest appearance on the NASCAR on NBC podcast, senior vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell laid out what could be in store for NASCAR’s premier series in the coming years – namely a focus on adding technology to its next model.
O’Donnell said NASCAR would be meeting with team owners in the next 10 days to begin working on the long-term strategy for the Gen 7 car, which could make its debut in the next two to four years.
“Marrying up the OEMs, the race teams and that new generation of drivers and making sure that whatever we put on the track puts us in the best position to succeed,” O’Donnell said. “That’s from an economic standpoint and technology and what’s some cool stuff we can put in the car, and what do these young drivers get enthusiastic about and feel good about what they’re racing.
“That’s the biggest focus now is bringing all those parties together to talk about Gen 7 and where we want to go collectively as an industry. Maybe not so much how much are we spending on spindles, but what is the coolest technology we can put in that car to showcase to the fans is the avenue we want to go down.”
On the future of other competition topics:
–The overtime line likely would move from the backstretch to the start-finish line for overtime finishes next season. O’Donnell said there “aren’t a ton of (positives)” from the current location of the line, which was the source of controversy at Daytona and Dover. “So if we can get it back to the start-finish line and make sure fans get that one full lap, that’s a direction we want to go,” he said.
–O’Donnell acknowledged a general dissatisfaction with the splitter, which has drawn negative reactions from drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. for causing extra damage on spins through the grass.
“We know the fans hate it,” O’Donnell said. “(On the) Gen 7, you can bet we will not be idiots. If we can get rid of the splitter, we would do that.”
—Driver biometrics, a digital readout visible on cars that indicates their positions on track (a la the IMSA and IndyCar Series) and real-time speeds from the pit lane also should be available with the new model.
“All those things should be a cool display we have in the car,” O’Donnell said. “Instead of teams spending money on spindles, can you shorten up the pay scale on that and put it toward digital stuff that’s fan-facing.”
–The debut of a visor camera that was used at Sonoma by Danica Patrick and at Daytona by A.J. Allmendinger should become more widespread. “You hear from teams, ‘I’m not going to wear that because of my digital dash (possibly revealing information),’ ” O’Donnell said. “For us, there’s a bigger benefit for the fans. Going forward, there are a couple of things to get through, but we’ll expect 40 drivers to have that on and have that perspective.”
–After once considering the use of RFID chips to monitor whether five lug nuts are attached on each pit stop, O’Donnell said NASCAR might use a crew’s pit guns to determine if wheels properly are secured.
— O’Donnell said NASCAR was mindful of complaints about a late debris caution at Michigan, and then praise about the long green-flag run that ended Sonoma.
“I think there was fair criticism after Michigan,” he said. “For us, it’s about putting more process in place when those cautions are called and being as transparent as we can. We’re looking at do we display whatever (the debris) was on the (NASCAR) hauler.
“That part or piece might not always be there if someone hits it, but we recognize we’re a big-time sport, a lot of eyeballs on the sport, so we’re utilizing as much technology as we can, and having people weigh in on that decision going forward. I think you saw that in Sonoma and will see that going forward as well. Being as transparent as we can and explaining why we did something and why we made a call. Or if we missed something, being open about that as well.”
–O’Donnell said NASCAR might start its second and final stages under green rather than under yellow, counting the caution that divides the segments in the previous stage.
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NASCAR looking to move overtime line in 2018 to start/finish line
NASCAR is looking to move the overtime line to the start/finish line next year, a senior executive told NBC Sports.
Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president and chief racing development officer, made the comment during the NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan.
“We’re going to take a hard look for 2018 of making (the overtime line at) the start/finish line,’’ O’Donnell told Ryan.
A point that has been made from tracks, O’Donnell said, is that many don’t have seats where the overtime line is — typically located on the backstretch or near the entrance of Turn 3.
“All those things, if you take the time and you put it up on a board and say what are the positives to this, there are not a ton of them,’’ O’Donnell said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “So I think if we get it back to the start/finish line and make sure the fans at least get that one full lap, that’s a direction we want to go.’’
Drivers came up with the overtime line with NASCAR. If the leader gets to the line before a caution comes out on the first lap of an overtime restart, no further attempts at a green-flag finish is made. If the leader does not make it to the line before a caution, another attempt at a green-flag finish is made.
“I kind of helped come up with that idea, so this is going to be kind of strange, but I think they should get rid of the overtime line at all the racetracks except for Daytona and Talladega,” Earnhardt said on Periscope after the June 4 Dover race.
“I think we should race it out everywhere. And no overtime line, just keep on doing green-white-checkereds until you get it right everywhere. And then at Daytona and Talladega, you probably can do something different.”
Earnhardt said the solution at Daytona and Talladega might be to “keep the overtime line or don’t have a green-white-checkered finish.
“Oh well. It’s a damn shame. It’s the way they did it for 50 years, so I think that people would be OK with it. It’s just green-white-checkered at those places are kind of crazy.”
Elliott Sadler, who finished second and was denied another attempt to win the race, didn’t fault NASCAR for the decision.
“I was good,’’ Sadler told the media after the race. “I’m not going to nickel and dime that to death. I’m in the race car. It’s probably easy for you to sit in here and judge what kind of call NASCAR makes, but we’ve got a lot of people out there and a lot of equipment and we’re running 190 mph side by side. If there is a reason to throw a caution because somebody has wrecked, I’m all for it because it could be the next time. I say safety first because my butt is in the seat.
“It’s a tough question. The rule is the rule, and the rule is put in a place for a couple of different reasons. But if you’re asking me a driver that has been doing this for 20 years, I’m going to err on the side of safety every time. It might have cost me a chance today, might not, I don’t know if could have got up there or not. You just don’t know when cars start wrecking and hitting and if somebody got hurt or if they didn’t or anything like that.’’
O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday: “We waited a second to see if the cars that were involved in the incident would roll off like you saw Saturday night, and unfortunately there were some impacts there where we had to throw the caution flag and ultimately end the race.’’
The full episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast with O’Donnell is expected to debut shortly after midnight Wednesday. During the podcast, O’Donnell discussed a variety of topics, including stage racing, the Gen-7 car that could debut in two to four years, technology NASCAR is looking to use to help monitor lug nut checks, debris cautions and more.
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Actually — if the goal is sanity and simplicity (admittedly, at the expense of some suspense) — don’t stop there, either.
Why not just dump the green-white-checkered policy, too, and end every race at its scheduled distance?
It’s a concept that worked fairly well from, oh, 1948-2004.
That seems overlooked in the annals of NASCAR history, largely forgotten alongside the myriad plot twists that formed an overtime policy whose potentially infinite loop reflects its contorted route to creation.
In order to weigh the merits of extending races, let’s absorb an extensive history lesson on how the green-white-checkered finish (and, eventually, the overtime line) came into existence.
The genesis was roughly June 6, 1998 at Richmond International Raceway, where NASCAR stopped a race with seven laps to go for nearly 15 minutes to clean up a messy oil leak. Without the red flag, the race would have ended under caution with Dale Jarrett winning. Instead, Terry Labonte bumped Jarrett from the lead after the restart, and an officiating trend was born.
For the next six years, NASCAR arbitrarily began stopping races after late cautions to help an attempt at ending a race under green. Eventually, a lap number was announced in prerace driver meetings as the cutoff for using a red flag to help finish a race.
This seemed to placate crowds until a few endings under yellow still drew major fan derision – in particular, two at restrictor-plate tracks.
The July 6, 2002 race at Daytona International Speedway concluded with cars weaving through a shower of several hundred seat cushions heaved from the backstretch grandstands in anger.
The April 25, 2004 race at Talladega Superspeedway was frozen under yellow with four laps remaining – just before Earnhardt seized the lead from Jeff Gordon, whose No. 24 Chevrolet was pelted by beer cans during its victory burnouts.
Nearly three months later, NASCAR instituted the green-white-checkered rule, and it first came into play at the 2004 Brickyard 400, where Mark Martin and Earnhardt blew tires on the extra 2.5-mile circuit around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The new policy seemed here to stay, though, until …
A few days later, NASCAR told drivers during a preseason safety meeting that it would begin making three attempts at a green-flag finish. After grumbling from teams, it had an immediate impact – Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 on the second attempt at a green-flag finish (instead of Kevin Harvick, who was leading when the caution waved the first time).
This seemed to work OK until a spate of fan injuries in green-white-checkered finishes in the Truck, Xfinity and Cup series at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway from 2012-15.
So before the 2016 season, “NASCAR Overtime” was decreed with the addition of a line on the backstretch of every track. Once the leader crossed it after an overtime restart, the race wouldn’t be restarted for a yellow – but there would be unlimited attempts to breach the overtime line under green.
That seemed fine again until Sunday … when the overtime line became the primary determinant of a Cup winner for the first time, and NASCAR Twitter melted down in a storm of poorly applied Speedi Dri.
After nearly 20 years of tinkering, it seemed a tipping point.
You can’t please everyone all the time, but you can confuse many by overlaying countless rulebook Band-Aids to ensure conditions for a thrilling ending.
There is no shame in concluding races when advertised. It actually once was an accepted maxim among Cup drivers. Prior to July 2004, the party line was about clinging to the sanctity of race lengths that matched the same lap totals listed on the entry blanks.
It was a worthy crusade borne of competitive integrity.
Fans don’t have an inalienable right to enjoy a fantastic finish. Displaying the yellow and white flags together works fine for other series and prestigious races.
The 2013 Indianapolis 500, which featured a record 68 lead changes, ended with three laps of yellow and a standing ovation for winner Tony Kanaan from a crowd that seemed happy to catch its breath after three hours of breathtaking action.
There was no sense of anyone feeling cheated by a muted finish. There was just an understanding that sometimes events unfold that way.
Returning to its method of concluding races for 56 years undoubtedly would draw pushback for NASCAR. This isn’t a drastic change, though, so much as a digestible reversion, a la returning the Southern 500 to Labor Day weekend. It ultimately could be as well-received as Darlington Raceway’s triumphant reclaiming of its history, a throwback in the same vein.
The green-white-checkered finish started with good intentions, among the first in a wave of fan-driven initiatives that also spawned double-file restarts and the Gen 6 car. NASCAR should be commended for listening, but the catering also can become counterproductive.
Instead of further tweaking to an artificial construct, perhaps it’s time to remove the green-white-checkered rule in the same way races should end.
A year after facing questions about why he wouldn’t close out races (by roughing people up), the Kyle Larson narrative now has shifted to why he can’t close out races.
Dover marked the third time in 14 races that Larson has lost the lead on a restart in the final 10 laps – twice to Jimmie Johnson in overtime.
It raises questions – which Larson understandably is growing tired of answering — about how an ace in the short-burst format of sprint cars can wrestle so much with quickly getting a stock car off the line.
Larson lost Dover in second gear, partly because he didn’t get a good jump, but also because Johnson got the perfect jump.
As NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Jarrett said on NASCAR America, restarts aren’t something a driver can work on like free throws in basketball. It’s a skill that can’t be honed except in the moment.
Drivers can gain a modicum of experience with every restart, but Jarrett also noted that being in the second, third or fourth row is completely unlike restarting on the front row.
As Larson continues to set the pace – he led a career-high 241 laps at Dover – he will learn how to control a restart as well as Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. And there was another very encouraging sign of maturation at Dover for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.
His willingness to mix it up during the race with Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. showed he has learned lessons from the deference he occasionally has given too much to veterans.
Chase Elliott seemed to spend much of his rookie season in self-flagellation when things went wrong. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had seemed less frustrated with a stretch of four consecutive finishes outside the top 20 before placing fifth at Dover.
But Elliott, demonstrating acute self-analysis for a 21-year-old, said he hadn’t changed, and that it was easy to understand why.
Unlike the 2016 season, which was marred by driver and team errors that cost wins for the No. 24 Chevrolet, this season mostly has been themed by uncontrollable misfortune.
“There is no secret, if I make a mistake I’m going to be mad at myself, and that is just a fact, and that is the way I am,” he said. “You can like it, you can hate it, but that is just how I am. That is how I grew up, and that is how I’m going to be.”
During a week of hyperbolic and sanctimonious dissections of driver personalities, it was refreshing to hear a rising star make no apologies for just being him.
Regardless of whether the loose wheels at Dover for Kyle Busch and Chase Briscoe draw penalties, they already have generated too much discussion.
Legislating lug nuts mostly is an unnecessary distraction and embodiment of the busybody minutiae that sucks the oxygen from NASCAR’s more deserving storylines.
Near the beginning of the season, NASCAR said the goal was to move away from announcing midweek penalties so it could shift the focus toward storylines that actually move tickets.
It’s an admirable objective, but much work remains to keep garage and pit officiating in the background, where they belong.
Crew chief Chad Knaus gave a brief and coy answer (“Yeah, there is definitely some strategy. For sure.”) when asked whether it was a calculated risk to keep Johnson on track (and in the lead) with 70 laps remaining at Dover as other contenders pitted under green. The strategy effectively put Johnson in position to win when a caution flag flew.
Sunday’s Cup race at Dover International Speedway ended when a caution came out during an overtime finish.
But since Jimmie Johnson had already passed the overtime line halfway down the backstretch, the caution effectively ended the race.
Afterward, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in a Periscope video that even though he helped come up with the idea of the overtime line, he believed it should only be used at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
On NASCAR America, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton shared their thoughts on the rule, which was implemented after how the fall 2015 Talladega race ended.
“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t in favor of (having) it everywhere else, anyway,” Jarrett said. “I think at other race track we could get in enough overtime (restarts) that generally you could finish a race by doing it that way. … Just because someone decides we need to change this, we can’t just make rules and then all of a sudden change.
Said Burton, “I think it’s important to remember how you got here. The reason the overtime line is there is so that NASCAR can roll safety (crews to accidents). … As a fan, I want to see every race end with the checkered flag flying at the start-finish line. As a competitor, the complexity of that is, how many times are you going to do that? Fuel mileage comes into play. A lot of things comes into play. Just remember how we got to where we are.”