yellow line

NASCAR executive explains yellow line rulings at Talladega

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Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said the instances of vehicles going below the yellow line on the last lap of the Truck and Cup races at Talladega Superspeedway “were very, very different from one another,” with one being “a lot more blatant” than the other.

The first occurred Saturday in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, and saw Johnny Sauter‘s apparent win given to Spencer Boyd after Sauter forced Riley Herbst and his own truck below the yellow line as he defended the lead coming to the checkered flag. NASCAR dropped Sauter to the last car on the lead lap for the violation. He finished 14th.

On Monday, Ryan Blaney was briefly forced below the yellow line by Ryan Newman as they battled for the lead, but Newman did not go below the yellow line. Blaney nipped Newman at the finish line to win. NASCAR issued no penalty.

If NASCAR determines a driver forced another below the double yellow line in an effort to keep from being passed, they may be black flagged.

Miller made his comments on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

Johnny Sauter went below the yellow line and forced Riley Herbst below it on the last lap of Saturday’s Truck Series race at Talladega. (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“First of all, one guy won the race or appeared to have won the race by making that move and the other didn’t,” Miller said. “When you’re talking about Johnny’s situation, he drove all four of his wheels under the yellow line to force (Herbst) down there. It was obviously a lot more blatant in our opinion than what transpired on (Monday). Blaney was down there, Ryan (Newman) wasn’t down there, but certainly in our opinion drove him down there.

“We reserve the right to call a car that forces another down below the yellow line. We can kind of use our judgement to assess the situation.

“No two ones of those situations are the same. There’s some subjectivity in it, which isn’t the greatest thing for us. But I think we’re very happy with the calls that we made and feel like both of them were right.”

Miller was asked by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio whether the yellow line rule is one that will be addressed going forward.

“The language of the rule is fine,” Miller said. “There’s always going to be judgment unless we put a wall down there or grass there or something like that. Those things would have their own set of large problems associated with them. We’ve looked at the language many times and have landed on where we are to let us make the calls we feel like are necessary for certain situations.

“If we didn’t have the yellow line rule, there’s no telling what might ensue with all the skid paths and everything leading into the back straight being so wide. We would find guys getting to the other end having no place to go but the apron. We have to enforce the yellow line rule and we are where we are. We look at everything every time when we have to make a call, all of our rules, not only race procedures, but technical rules as well.

“We’re constantly trying to get better. … I mean the yellow line rule is not something that we enjoy by any stretch of the imagination. But we have to have it. If we didn’t, there’d be even more mayhem more than likely.”

Miller also addressed why no caution was thrown on the last lap when Parker Kligerman and Chris Buescher wrecked on the frontstretch as the field approached the start-finish line. Both drivers were turned nose-first into the outside wall in the tri-oval.

“When it feels like that it’s not hampering us from dispatching the safety equipment we’ll let things play out,” Miller said. “That’s kind of our criteria for judging that. Everybody wants to see a checkered flag finish and not a field freeze. We’ll do everything that we can safely to make that happen.”

Miller was also asked by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about NASCAR’s view on manufacturer coordination during superspeedway races. It was put under the spotlight Sunday during the initial rain delay when all Chevrolet drivers, crew chiefs and competition directors met privately for about 25 minutes.

“That’s always going to be subjective, right?” Miller said. “You’re going to have a race and there’s going to be teammates working together and there’s going to be cars from different camps working together on the situation out there in the race. … I don’t know why it got publicized this weekend as much as it did. I think all of the manufacturers and all of the teams internally meet and try to come up with a little bit of strategy to stick with one another in the draft.

“It’s not something that we can really officiate effectively. We can ask them not to talk about it I would assume, but it’s not something we can really officiate. If something becomes extremely blatant and you have people stopping or doing crazy things, then obviously we have to look at that. But as far as going out there and working together in the draft, that’s something that’s going to change every single lap depending on who you’re around. So there’s really no way to officiate that.”


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.