Junior, Stewart weigh in on yellow line rule change
Speculation that NASCAR is considering making changes to a number of rules in 2010 — including doing away with the yellow line and “no bump-draft zones” at Daytona and Talladega — had media and competitors alike buzzing at Saturday’s Sprint Sound and Speed event in Nashville, Tenn.
A closed-door meeting between NASCAR principles, drivers and team owners last Thursday, when officials asked the competitors for input, further fueled the belief that change is coming. And some of that change appears to center on plate racing.
NASCAR’s yellow line rule has stipulated that no driver pass below the “out of bounds” line. The penalty for doing so was a pass through the pits. However, controversial finishes over the last two seasons have the sanctioning body re-examining its stance.
Two wild crashes on the final lap of races at Talladega and Daytona when drivers blocked a competitor, using the yellow line as a "pick," have resulted in torn sheet metal and cars lifting into the catchfence.
One of those involved was Carl Edwards, whose car was launched into the fence after his attempted block of Brad Keselowski in last April’s Aarons 499 at Talladega. While Edwards is unsure if his specific incident played in to NASCAR’s re-examination of the rule, he was more than happy to sit down with the sanctioning body and share his thoughts.
“I don’t know if my accident at Talladega was the product of the yellow line — it was more a product of Brad Keselowski and I fighting to beat the other one really bad, but we talked about it with Mike Helton and them the other day.
“What we told NASCAR, as Roush Fenway drivers, is that the yellow line rule is good, but I personally like — and my teammates like — that when you see the checkered flag, anything goes,” Edwards said. “We’re already wreckin’ every time — we might as well get to shoot the grass and go for it. It might as well be a race.”
Echoing Edwards’ sentiments is seven-time plate victor Dale Earnhardt Jr., who takes his typical “it’s-no-big-deal-either-way” attitude when discussing the possible deletion of a yellow line or two. In fact, Earnhardt looks back at history and basically shrugs, saying, “It’ll be like going to a race 10 years ago, I guess. The racing will look similar to what it does now. I mean, we’ll be passing below the yellow line, which will be a little different, but that’s fine. There’s a lot of asphalt down there.”
Driver-turned-car owner and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip has always been more of a chess player — particularly on the plate tracks — and doesn’t share Earnhardt’s or Edwards’ “let us race” point of view.
“I think it’s a bad idea [to go away with the yellow line rule],” Waltrip flatly stated. “The yellow line was put there for a good reason. If the yellow line wasn’t there, then the yellow line would become the grass. We’ve proven we’re perfectly capable of wiping ourselves out with the yellow line … what are we trying to accomplish?
Of course, Mikey didn’t stop there. Never one to criticize without offering a suggestion, Waltrip did just that — in his typical deadpan humor, but with a hint of realism:
“I do have an idea: A point a lap [awarded to] the leader at Talladega and Daytona. That way people will race hard instead of doing what is smart and riding in line until the end. Someone said, ‘We’re going to wreck cars.’ But at Talladega we wreck at the end, and if we awarded a point a lap, we could wreck some earlier, some in the middle and some later, too.”
Waltrip got back to the point, though, when he opined that, “We’re all about the fans, and the fans have spoken that the way we race Talladega, they don’t enjoy it as much as they did before. There’s no scientific answer how to fix the track or the car, so what can we do? We can change the drivers' philosophy.”
Five-year Richard Childress Racing vet Clint Bowyer echoed Waltrip’s sentiments — about the yellow line, not the points — saying that going away from the rule, “Is a mistake. There’s 10 feet of runoff on the apron. If you get down there and don’t get back up before the banking starts, you’re going to launch up there and wipe everybody out.
“The yellow line keeps everyone on the banking as you transition into the corners. It’s a good rule.” AthlonSports.com