Drivers like, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are professional “super-speedway car” drivers on tracks like Talladega and Daytona. Winning is what puts food on their table and a roof over their head. In 2001 NASCAR introduced the “yellow-line” rule; it is supposed to create an out of bounds for drivers attempting to pass on the inside at Daytona and Talladega, the two largest speedways on the Winston Cup schedule. The rule was put in place for safety but in turn has proven that it is no safer than before and has taken the ability for a driver to change outcome of the race in fear of being penalized.
The rule states that drivers are not prohibited from dropping below the line to avoid another car, but they will be black-flagged–which forces them to make an unscheduled pit stop before returning to the track–doing so in order to improve their position. Knowing this, drivers often use the line to block faster cars behind them, which muses more trouble. The faster drivers are then forced to either break the rule or abruptly slow down and risk being run over at 190 mph by drafting cars.
A driver can be black-flagged if in NASCAR’s judgment they go below the yellow-line to improve their position or if they force someone below the yellow-line in an effort to stop him from passing. In other words if a driver goes below the yellow-line they lose the race so instead they have to go up and risk wrecking into others in order to win. This gets back to the safety issue. Does the yellow-line rule really provide a safer racing environment? Brad Keselowski, a NASCAR driver, escaped one of the scary crashes in NASCAR history at Talledaga in 2009 coming across the finish line first. Keselowski says it better than most “The yellow line is there to prevent us from running underneath it, prevent us from being crazy. But the bottom line is that is who we are – we’re all crazy race-car drivers and we’re going to run into each other. That yellow line could be six foot higher or six foot lower, and we’d run into each other.”
Two major issues that create hazardous conditions at the Talladega and Daytona NASCAR races are restrictor-plates that reduce horsepower and create racing in packs and the “yellow-line” rule that does not allow the drivers to pass underneath the yellow line that separates the track from the apron. Both of the restrictor-plate tracks you will find people from all over the world sitting on the edge of their seats trying to get as close to the track as possible. Some say these two are the most exciting races to watch because of the dangerous speeds which can be more than 190 mph, and the most massive chain-reaction crashes.
Currently NASCAR can, and does, enforce its written rules as it deems fit, considering the particular incident and its individual circumstance each time. Specific ramifications for specific infractions simply do not exist. This leads to inconsistent rules enforcement. It is time that NASCAR eliminates the “yellow-line” rule and let drivers accept responsibility for their actions. Let the drivers, the risk takers, take risk, it is what they do and they do a great job of it if they are given the opportunity. Every driver is out on that track to take home the win, to cross the checkered flag first. NASCAR fans pay good money and want to see these drivers giving it there all, regardless if that means passing below the yellow-line or on the outside just let them race.
Dolack, Chris. “Yellow Fever: at Restrictor-plate Tracks, NASCAR’s Inconsistent Enforcement of the “yellow-line” Rule Is Leaving a Lot of Drivers Seeing Red.” BNET. CBS Interactive Inc., June-July 2003. Web. 10 May 2010.
Pockrass, Bob. “NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Debate Impact of Yellow-line Rule on Talladega Crash.” Scenedaily.com. Street & Smith’s Sports Group, Inc., 26 Apr. 2009. Web. 10 May 2010.