Winston Cup drivers comment on new no racing back to line rule

September 20, 2003

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NASCAR announced new rules this morning regarding the practice of racing back to the yellow caution flag and entering pit road. Ford driver Mark Martin commented about the changes immediately following the meeting.

MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus - "It's OK. This is gonna be different, but it's gonna be alright."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE FIRST CAR BEING A LAP DOWN BEING ABLE TO GET ITS LAP BACK? "It's too early to tell. I don't disagree with it yet. We'll have to try the formula and see how it works and then they'll adjust things if it needs to be adjusted. So far it seems to be well thought out."

IS IT A SHAME THAT IT'S GOTTEN TO THE POINT WHERE NASCAR HAD TO JUMP IN AND MAKE A RULE? "Yeah, it is because it's gonna create some other problems. It's gonna fix a lot of things, but it's gonna create a few new problems. It's a shame that this is gonna be less and less gentlemanly and honorable as we go forward. That kind of stuff has kind of brought this thing to a head and it's gonna continue to get worse. It even puts the guys who have a good honor system in a position where they can't afford to be as honorable and respectful. It's gonna become more and more dog-eat-dog as we go forward and it already has. It's dramatically changed in that direction the last year and it's gonna continue."

WHAT ABOUT THE PIT ROAD RULE? "There are no drawbacks to that. There won't be any backlash or drawbacks to that, but lapped cars and not racing back to the caution opens up a new set of problems. There aren't as many as we had with the other system, but it's gonna take some time to get this all sorted out."

DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus - WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE CAUTION RULE CHANGE? "It was obvious that something was gonna have to be put in place as a rule because agendas have changed for people. It seems that, whether it's right or wrong, and I'm not here to decide who is right and who is wrong, but because of the ways that mostly the newer generation has come in and taken the rules for what they are, there can't be any gray area. You have to define it out because they're gonna take it to that limit. Again, I'm not saying that's wrong, it's just the way that it is now so NASCAR was forced to do something. This wasn't simply because of last week's deal. This was something that's been happening for the last few years, so now we have a definite rule. I think the idea of giving that first car, no matter how many laps down he is a lap back, I don't know about that practice but it's something we can try. If it seems to be something that is not exactly right, then that's something they can change later. I understand what they're trying to do and that's appreciated, but it could create quite a bit of confusion so that's what they want to see. We have a nine-week trial period to kind of see how that goes and it'll be interesting. Cautions are gonna be a little longer at the beginning until everybody understands exactly what's going on, but, again, something had to be done."

WILL THIS MAKE IT HARDER FOR THE LEADER SPECIFICALLY TO ACTUALLY PUT A CAR A LAP DOWN? "I don't think there's any doubt that the leader is gonna have a more difficult time lapping cars and he's also gonna have a more difficult time on restarts because you realize, as we've all said, that cautions breed cautions. If on that restart you can get in front of the leader, you're gonna do whatever you can do. There's no more agreement like, 'Hey, if you give me that first corner and don't give me any hassle, I'll take care of you if the caution comes out.' You don't have that anymore. It's gonna be hard racing. It's gonna be exciting for the fans, I think, but, again, we're not putting drivers in situations where everybody is gonna be mad because somebody got a lap back and somebody didn't. I don't know where that ever started, but I think we've solved that problem. But, yes, you would have to think that lapping cars is gonna be more difficult now."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON PIT ROAD ENTRY? "I think it's a good idea. That is a place, and NASCAR has stressed this for a lot of years. Obviously, I'm very guilty, too, it's not a place to be racing. That's a place to come in and get our cars worked on. It's not a place to put those guys who are jumping out there to do their jobs in danger. Like I said I'm very guilty there, but I think we all need to step back and take a look at that. I think we've been very fortunate with my accident at Indianapolis and with Jeff's deal the other day that someone wasn't more seriously injured. This is very competitive racing and you want to try to get every edge you can, but that is just not the place. You'd hate to ever see it come to the point where NASCAR says, 'You all aren't capable of handling this on your own, so we'll go in the pits and come out the pits in the same place so the pit crews will be null and void.' You don't want to do that. You don't want to take that element away, so we've got to do our jobs and be smarter there to where we're not putting those guys in danger."

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft/Air Force Taurus - "There are many different reasons I guess you can try to come up with why it doesn't work. Mike Helton said it worked for fifty-some years, but you've basically got 40 cars that can almost win any given race and everybody is the same speed. The DJ thing last week sort of brought it to a boil and that wasn't even at the end of the race. My biggest concern has always been, what happens if you've got guys racing back - not only just to get laps back, but say you have 10 laps to go and the caution comes out with the leader in turn one. Maybe we're in a pack of 20 cars at Talladega that are on the lead lap, but you're in turn one when the caution comes out and the wreck is coming off of turn four. Whoever comes to the finish line first is gonna be the winner of that race because they're not gonna restart. That's always been the part that scared me. Fortunately, we've never had that situation develop, but the thing with DJ happened with 100 laps to go and everyone's mentality at this day and time is that it doesn't matter if it's the end of the race or not, they just go. I'm glad that they made the change. Obviously, the drivers were told it's a gentlemen's agreement. The pressures for guys to win today, I wouldn't say they're greater than they used to be, but I can't understand why it doesn't work now. I understand sort of, but everyone seems to be a little more greedier than they used to be."

IS IT FAIR? "I think it's fair. I like the rule. I think it's fair for everybody, but something I want to add to it is that it's also gonna accomplish something else that they needed to get a handle on and that is whoever is leading the race when the caution comes out, guys that are a lap down still feel like they're owed that lap back and it never used to be that way. They felt that they were owed that lap back and, it doesn't matter who is leading the race, when the caution comes out and that guy didn't let them have their lap back, now they're gonna go up and beat the fenders off the leader and that's not right. So it cleaned that up, too."

Ricky Craven- "We'll have to see how it shakes out here in the next couple of weeks. I'm very pleased to hear that they consider this rule a work in progress, and is something they're willing to tweak if they find more changes need to be made. It's obvious they've put a lot of thought into the ruling, but they're also smart enough to realize you can't envision and plan for every conceivable scenario. The big thing is, this rule alleviates the main problem, which was drivers creating dangerous situations by racing back to the yellow. Regardless of what might be said as we move forward, the rule addresses what we needed it to address. I'm extremely pleased by the decision. It's going to make for a much safer situation for everyone, be it the drivers, the crews, or the safety workers."

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid) - On NASCAR's yellow-flag rule revisions... "I think it's something that's good. I think it's a great safety move. It's important for NASCAR to recognize that, and they have. There's going to be some things that we need to work out and iron out, but overall I think they're going in the right direction. This has always been a problem, but it's definitely come up more recently.

"I'm totally clear on NASCAR's decision. I think the way they have it right now is better, and solely a safety issue -- both pit road and the racing back to the yellow situation. What they're doing for the pit road situation is, drivers can only pass on pit road to the right. So, if the car in front of you is below pit road speed or ran out of gas, or you do for that matter, that car needs to pull down to the left, so cars can pass to the right and not cause accidents.

"You can pass on the left leaving the pits, which is normal, totally acceptable and understandable. It's coming into the pits that you have to pass on the right. You only pass when you're in the pits - going into the pit stall, not like what happened at NHIS when the No. 24 car tried to cheat pit road speed and got himself in trouble. You can no longer do that. If you gain even an inch on the guy in front of you to the left, you will be penalized for that.

"It's pretty cut and dry in my opinion. When the caution comes out, the field is locked in. If the yellow comes out on lap 398 of a 400-lap race, then the front car will win, plain and simple. You just don't race back to the yellow. I mean, you take the risk of safety out of the equation because the reason there is a yellow flag is because there's debris or an accident on the track. Whether it's the last lap or any other lap of the race, the leader is the leader for whatever reason.

"The second part of the situation as far as racing back to the yellow there's a few things that need to be ironed out, but it's only with respect to NASCAR giving a car lap back each time there's a yellow flag. I understand where NASCAR is coming from, but the problem is it has opened up a whole different can of worms when it comes to the gray areas, so to speak. It's just a new topic for everyone to talk about for the next four months until something else comes about."

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) - "I think Mike Helton made an awesome decision by not racing back to the yellow flag. Man, there are too many almost major crashes that happen when guys try to do that. I never have understood why a driver who's leading the race and has worked all day trying to get the lead would be willing to get out of the gas to let another guy get his lap back. Now, if it's one of your friends I realize what goes around comes around, but you've got to use a little sense too. Some of these guys who are jumping on the gas so early are causing a hell of a wreck behind them - the leaders were, with all of these guys darting back. Finally, NASCAR said, 'That's enough of that. We'll take it into our own hands. When the caution flag comes out everyone will hold their own position.'

"This is going to do a couple of things. It's going to calm all of that down and allow NASCAR to get their emergency vehicles down there quicker if there's a big wreck at a racetrack. They couldn't get everybody out there because these guys were still racing hard and running all over the racetrack. Now when that caution flag comes out we all slow down right now. We can move those emergency vehicles where they need to go, and that's smart."

"We'll definitely tweak it if it's needed in the future. That's the cool thing about NASCAR. Instead of them saying, 'This is the rule, and this is what it is,' they've said, 'This is the rule, and that's the way it'll be for now. If it doesn't work we're going to adjust this thing, and try to make it better and better.'

JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Havoline Dodge Intrepid) - "I'm glad they did it before somebody got hurt, because that's definitely something that someone one day would get hurt by. I think it's going to be a mess for a while until they figure it out. There were so many questions being asked in the meeting that we had. I think you have to do that. Guys get so crazy trying to get your lap back, and I've been there where you just need to get your lap back and you'll do anything. Definitely, I feel like it's a great idea. It just seemed like everybody has gotten greedy. Everyone has found a way to capitalize on something there, just like pit stops and everything else. It just keeps getting more competitive every week. Maybe only a couple of guys were doing that last year, and none the year before, and now everybody is.

"If you lose only one lap, no (it won't be ever tougher to get a lap back). I think it's almost going to be easier, because you don't necessarily have to beat the leader back, and if you are better than everybody else a lap down, you'll get there eventually. And it's going to guarantee that somebody every single time gets a lap back. A lot of times people don't get their lap back, especially like Bristol. This will guarantee at least one guy every time, so I think it's going to be better. I think that your strategy will have to be a little bit different. I don't know what, but it's going to change something for sure."

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