Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Racing Back to the Line a Rule That Should Not Return

The pack flew out of turn 1 three wide and wobbling all over kingdom come. Turn 2 made me bite my nails and close one eye. But they did it. The competitors continued to lay everything they had out there… until somebody did something wonky. In the blink of an eye, half the field spread across the backstretch in an attempt to miss the 180-mph ping-pong balls that looked like trucks. And the race was over due to the NASCAR rule that once the white flag has flown, a caution will bring an immediate end to the race. The field will be scored according to the last completed scoring loop prior to the wreck, minus those in the wreck.

And so ended Saturday’s Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-cola.

As the wreck happened well into the field, it was inevitable. Half of the NASCAR Twitterverse exploded with, “It’s too bad they couldn’t race back to the line.” Why not? Look at the mile plus of empty asphalt laid out before the leaders. Why couldn’t the guys that weren’t in it drive their little hearts out to the finish?

I hit my head with my hand. Are we really going through this again? I hear this almost every time we finish a race under caution.

However, the ending to Sunday’s 44th Annual Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 gave us the perfect illustration for why this rule exists.

Once again the field lined up for a GWC finish. Matt Kenseth led them to the green and the battle was on. He blocked Clint Bowyer, pushing the No. 15 way down below the yellow line and ensuring Clint didn’t manage to nudge his way forward. Meanwhile Tony Stewart took the train on the outside, driving to the fore. Now with just one lap left, and the pack bunched up into a four by seven grid, everybody was driving like hell to grab every inch of track they could. Suddenly the No. 55 appeared out of nowhere on the bottom and the No. 14 went down to block. And the carnage was on.

However, unlike the truck race, it wasn’t only the back of the pack that was going to need a tow back to the garage. The entire field played bumper cars all the way through turns 3 and 4. The freeway was blocked and it looked like somebody ought to be putting out detour signs. What a mess!

And not a single soul suggested we ought to race back to anywhere, mostly because there wasn’t anybody left to do it. But really it had to do with common sense. There were cars, debris (the visible kind) and safety crews everywhere. This was no place or time to be worried about changing positions in the final stretch of the event.

The Cup race was surely the extreme example of why this rule exists in NASCAR. You simply don’t want anybody plowing through a battlefield with the wounded still strewn about. Okay. Well then, why couldn’t we sort of have a if/then caveat to the rule? If the wreck happens between the start line and the backstretch and if the wreck happens in the second half of the field, then those in front of the wreck can continue on their merry little way.

Uh huh. We’d have Mr. NASCAR Driver waving his hand after the race was over crying, “I was in 11th and the wreck started in 12th. I should’ve been allowed to race! Not stopped with those who wrecked.”

Or there would be random decisions by the tower that the initial contact occurred a few more inches closer to turn 3 than turn 2, so the rule didn’t apply.

It’s a can of worms that just doesn’t need to be opened.

The fact is most rules in our world that are concerned with safety rotate around worst-case scenarios, not the most likely. On a green-white-checkered, it is most likely that we’ll see a spin that will have little impact on a field continuing to race to the green. However, isn’t it a better world knowing that when the Big One takes out most of the field, those trapped in their cars – and who haven’t decided if they stopped on their lid or not – don’t have to worry about being nailed by a car still trying to better his finishing position?

NASCAR may not have a ton of rules in their little black book that make sense to those in the real world, but this is one they’ve got right. We don’t race back to the finish line under caution, first lap or last lap. It’s a bad idea and one we got rid of years ago. Let’s keep it that way.

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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