ANDY CAGLE: A History of Selective Rule Enforcement
So which one is it: "Get what you can get" or "Do not, under any circumstance, mess with the sacred yellow line"?
The answer, I guess, depends on who you are.
If you are Regan Smith, the answer is you better keep every inch of your car above that line or to 18th place you go.
If you missed it, Smith took his Chevrolet low on the last lap to try to pass Tony Stewart for his first win.
He made it stick and crossed the line ahead of Stewart.
Not so fast, said NASCAR.
Stewart was declared the winner due to the illegal pass and Smith was scored 18th, the last car on the lead lap.
"During the last lap of yesterday's race at Talladega Superspeedway, the driver of the No. 01 (Smith) violated NASCAR policy by driving under the yellow line to improve his position," said NASCAR president Mike Helton.
"In NASCAR's opinion, he was not forced below the yellow line. NASCAR correctly took immediate action to enforce the policy by penalizing the No. 01 and scoring the No. 20 (Stewart) as the race winner."
Pretty cut and dried, right?
Look at the 2007 Craftsman Truck Series opener at Daytona. Todd Bodine made a last lap pass below the yellow. NASCAR allowed it and Bodine was the winner.
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said after that race that within sight of the checkered flag, drivers can "get what they can get."
It seems to me a certain very popular Cup driver had a similar pass upheld in 2004 at this very same track.
But Helton was adamant about the rule and NASCAR's intention to enforce it at Daytona and Talladega.
"This is your warning: race above the yellow line. If, in NASCAR's judgment, you go below the yellow line to improve your position, you will be black-flagged," said Helton. "If, in NASCAR's judgment, you force someone below the yellow line (in an effort to stop him from passing you), you may be black-flagged."
I'm not buying the tough talk.
NASCAR has a history of selective rule enforcement. I am not going to get into the whole thing of NASCAR playing favorites.
That implies some type of organization, which I'm not sure they've got enough of to pull off something so sinister. Corrupt versus inept? I'm going with inept.
The rule was enforced correctly last Sunday at Talladega. In the rule book it says thou shall not improve your position by going below the holy yellow line -- or something like that.
The problem I have is that in the past it hasn't been enforced and we don't know if it will be in the future. That, and the fact that NASCAR's top brass don't know what the rule is vis-a-vis the last lap of a plate race.
Last year you've got Poston saying "get what you can get." According to David Poole, NASCAR VP for competition Robin Pemberton told an Associated Press reporter that a
last-lap pass below the yellow line was allowed within sight of the checkered flag.
I guess Pemberton had as much explaining to do at work on Monday as Carl Edwards did. Or Ed Hoculi.
Every so often we get this same issue with NASCAR and it is all about credibility.
To be in charge of what you want everyone to consider a major sports league, you have to enforce your rules consistently or you might as well join forces with the WWE and market yourself as simply entertainment.
Contact Andy Cagle at email@example.com.
More like this story