A NASCAR ruling during The Clash has many drivers questioning what exactly the governing body wants from drivers going forward.
Sunday afternoon Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was penalized for passing the #18 of Kyle Busch below the double yellow line. Driving below the double yellow line is NASCAR’s version of out of bounds. The same way you can’t cross the double yellow on the road, they can’t on the track. This is NASCAR’s version of the catch rule, it’s open to a lot of interpretation.
The rule was instituted to ensure drivers didn’t race on the apron where a damaged car would be driving at. Shoutout Jeff Gordon for doing that. At the time it was a great rule and one that was needed. However with the new crash clock and damage policy races are almost assured to not have slow cars on the apron.
That brings us to Sunday and this move;
Here's a replay. What do you think?https://t.co/eHtj3kk5ZC
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 12, 2018
Stenhouse received a penalty for passing below the line even though it appeared he was forced below the line. NASCAR has said in the past they will make a judgment call and potentially penalize the car that pushed the other below the line. In this case, they opted to penalize the car making the pass much like they did when Tony Stewart pushed Regan Smith below the line at Talladega in 2008.
After the race, Stenhouse took to Twitter confused as to what he was supposed to do. Dale Jr. joined him in questioning NASCAR’s ruling. That prompted NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell to attempt an explanation. NASCAR to their credit has been fairly consistent with this rule but their ruling seems to go against the spirit of the rule.
A driver has three options in this situation.
- Pass the way Stenhouse did and receive a penalty or hope NASCAR sides with you and says you were forced below the line.
- Back off the throttle and drop back behind the car forcing you down. That goes against the whole point of the race and will put the lifting driver at the back of the pack. It’s not a logical option.
- Hold your line and wreck the car pushing you down. Think Brad Keselowski at Talladega in 2009.
Essentially what NASCAR is saying is hold your line. Unfortunately, that means cars are going to get wrecked. Jeff Gordon offered his opinion and told Stenhouse to hold his line even if it means spinning the other car. It’s a tough situation NASCAR is putting drivers in. Essentially they’re leaving them with the tough choice, potentially a bad finish if you lift or wreck half the field.
There’s no way NASCAR is advocating for drivers to wreck one another at Superspeedways. However, by the rule, they’re leaving drivers with little choice. This will be something talked about until the Daytona 500 this Sunday.
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