NASCAR says yellow line rule will not be going away any time soon

It’s a rule that hasn’t seen much enforcement from NASCAR in recent years. The rule which states that a car that goes below the yellow line at superspeedways, Daytona and Talladega, and advances their position must give that position back or face a penalty. The same for a driver who forces another driver below the yellow line.

Joey Logano was penalized by the rule twice during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Talladega. First was on lap 118 when NASCAR ruled Logano had forced Matt DiBenedetto below the yellow line, then again on lap 187.

The rule came into effect on the third overtime.

Winner Denny Hamlin crossed the line ahead of DiBenedetto who was initially scored second. NASCAR called for a review of the finish and nearly five minutes after the review call issued DiBenedetto a penalty for forcing William Byron below the yellow line on the last lap. DiBenedetto went from second to 21st.

Also, Chris Buescher, who won Stage 1, was scored sixth initially, but later penalized for forcing Chase Elliott below the yellow line and scored 22nd on the same lap.

DiBenedetto being denied a second-place finish, when he is up for a contract extension with the Wood Brothers team, didn’t sit well with many fans and with Dale Earnhardt Jr. the popular former driver turned broadcast analyst for NBC Sports.

Earnhardt commented as the broadcast ended, “How about we just get rid of the yellow line rule?”

His opinion wasn’t universally shared among drivers.

“The rule doesn’t need to be changed,” said Ty Dillon, who finished a career high third. “It’s a product of what’s going on right now.  These cars are a bit easier to drive, stuck to the ground harder.  The runs are happening twice as fast as they ever have.

“Guys going below the yellow line, you got guys going for a win, guys not trying to wreck.  It’s not just you’re hitting the ball and it’s okay.  It physically impacts you when you do crash.

“We know the rules before we get here.  I think if you were to open it up and take the yellow line away, you’re going to have guys blocking all the way down to the grass, have twice as big of wrecks.

“I don’t think we want to open up that can the worms.  We have plenty of racetrack we can go four‑ or five‑wide on.  It’s a product of what we do.  I don’t see anybody at any fault for any reason.  I don’t think anybody tried to bend the rules to get an advantage.  I think it’s just a product of what happens here.”

Second place finisher Erik Jones has his own opinion on the rule.

“I think you’d probably see more wrecks without it,” Jones said. “Guys being able to dive down there, trying to make big moves.  You’d probably see more accidents than what we have now.

“I don’t know.  I don’t honestly know what to do to make it better.  I know it’s unfortunate when it comes down to the end of the race, it becomes a judgment call.  I’m not totally sure what happened between the 11 and 21 that caused the penalty at the end, I haven’t seen it.

“It is unfortunate when you have to make those calls, put people out of the race for something like that.  But I honestly don’t know what I would change if I was in that position to make it any better.”

NASCAR’s vice president of competition Scott Miller later met with the media and explained their view on the incident that cost DiBenedetto his second place.

“It was pretty clear‑cut,” Miller said.  “The 21 (DiBenedetto car) hung a left, drove those guys down below the line.  We called that twice on the 22 (Logano car) car during the race, so nothing different there.

“On the 24 (Byron car) and the 11 (Hamlin car) being down there, I mean, in our judgment they were down there to avoid a wreck.  On the 9 (Elliott car), I mean, he obviously just pulled out and passed underneath the yellow line.

“I think all of it was, from our vantage point, I think fairly clear‑cut.”

As for eliminating the rule.

“I think you heard Erik say in the previous interview there would probably be even more wrecks,” Miller said.  “We certainly don’t need more wrecks than what we saw today.  Probably not.

Miller said they didn’t think more could be done.

“I mean, outside of putting a wall there, I don’t really know what more we can do,” he said.  “I do sincerely believe we need the rule.  You see all the real estate that’s around here.  If we started having cars running 12 wide down the back straightaway, imagine what would happen when you get to turn three.”

“I think it’s important that we continue to have a rule.  You get out there in the heat of battle, things happen.  It’s hard when there’s all that real estate down there, but you just can’t do it.

“I don’t think that we can eliminate it.  I think it would be a mess.  We kind of are where we are.”

Greg Engle