Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NASCAR: "Yellow line rule keeps wrecks under control." Okay then, tell us what wrecks were caused because the rule wasn't there

I read in Terry Blount's latest column on ESPN.com that John Darby says the dreaded yellow line "out of bounds" rule keeps the number of massive wrecks at Daytona and Talladega under control.

"The yellow-line rule has been very effective in controlling some of the huge wrecks we used to have," Sprint Cup director John Darby said Monday. "The rule has at least made the width of the racetrack consistent all the way around, so the competitors know how much real estate there is to use."

And he followed that comment up with this one:

"It (the racetrack) may be 15 lanes wide if you allow the competitors to use the skid pads and everything," Darby said. "But the entrance to Turn 3 is not [that wide]. So it becomes a big game of chicken from going from 15 lanes wide down to three that ultimately created some very large wrecks."

Okay, so the logical follow-up to that question is this: can you offer up instances of accidents caused by drivers racing on the apron and then trying to squeeze back up into traffic? I've seen every restrictor plate race since 1988, and darn if I can't remember that many (if any!).

Sometimes NASCAR takes their time and evaluates situations carefully before making a change. Heck, it's been 21 years since the implementation of the restrictor plate that everyone thought would be a temporary solution to slowing the cars down at the superspeedways. But sometimes they make changes in haste without looking at or fully anticipating the unintended consequences.

Things like the top-35 rule and the yellow line rule were put in place with the best of intentions. But there are always those unintended consequences...

The yellow line might make the track a uniform width, but it also means that in a situation like we saw on Sunday, a driver fighting for the lead on the last lap won't fade under that line and if the driver he's battling keeps on coming he's going to go for one heck of a ride. I don't think the powers that be that decided to suddenly come up with an out-of-bounds rule ever considered that showering the fans with debris could ever happen as a result, but that's exactly what happened. The two drivers involved were doing their jobs and neither was at fault. The yellow line rule was.

So I'd like to see NASCAR offer up some examples. I've seen several accidents happen because too many vehicles were being crammed into too little space between the concrete wall and the yellow line that wouldn't have happened if the driver on the bottom could have dipped below the out of bounds line (the massive Truck wreck entering turn three on the final lap at Talladega in 2006 for example). Now let's hear NASCAR offer up some examples of accidents happening because someone passed below the yellow line down the straightaway and squeezed back up into traffic with just feet to spare before reaching the banking.


  1. The yellow line marks the transition from the flat apron to the high-banked racing surface. Making that transition at high speed often caused loss of control, and I recall seeing quite a few big wrecks where that was precisely the issue. That's why the line is there, and the older, more sane drivers didn't need a rule to keep them above it. Of course they were not doing all of that absurd cross-track swerving to block overtaking cars either. They were actually conducting a comtest of speed.

  2. Hey Jayhawk. Did you watch Talladega qualifying. Everyone dipped below the yellow line to the flat apron in the tri-oval and I don't recall seeing anyone crashing then.