NASCAR: Take note of the yellow flag
Associated PressTALLADEGA, Ala. ó The speech hasn’t changed in the seven years since NASCAR first delivered it during a 2001 driver’s meeting at Daytona.
“This is your warning,” race director David Hoots begins. “Do not go below the yellow line. If in NASCAR’s judgment you go below the yellow line to improve your position, you will be black-flagged.”
So why the surprise that Regan Smith was penalized Sunday for dipping below the out-of-bounds line to pass Tony Stewart on the last lap at Talladega Superspeedway?
The debate over the frantic finish raged on Monday, with claims that the rookie driver was robbed of his first career victory because NASCAR used its judgment to give a two-time series champion a coveted Talladega victory. NASCAR defended its ruling late in the day, then cleared up any confusion about what’s allowed on the final lap of a restrictor-plate race.
NASCAR put the yellow-line policy in place in its first return to Daytona following Dale Earnhardt’s fatal 2001 accident. By outlawing a portion of the asphalt at Daytona and Talladega, NASCAR shrunk the racing surface and took control of daredevil driving at the two most dangerous tracks on the circuit.
Stewart broke the rule that very first race, dropping two tires below the line to avoid running into Johnny Benson after Benson tried to block Stewart’s attempted pass. Stewart was immediately black-flagged ó a directive he ignored ó and had a heated exchange with NASCAR following the race.
Hoots has yet to change the language of his pre-race warning in the 29 Cup restrictor-plate races since. Seriously. The script is so tight, drivers, crew chiefs and any other regular attendee knows the directive by heart.