What a difference a half a year makes!
A little over six months ago, we had a lot to write about after the race at Talladega. Seems that a mostly unknown rookie almost won a Cup race at Talladega. That man was Regan Smith.
Without rehashing the whole ordeal, in short, Regan was forced below the (then single) yellow line by Tony Stewart, but yet still managed to pass him for the (supposed) win! Alas, it was not to be, as NASCAR ruled he was below the yellow line, which is out of bounds… yada yada yada. We all know the story.
Ironically, the results of that race, determined the results of this last weekend’s race. Smith himself said last year, and I paraphrase; “I’d have wrecked him (Tony) if I’d have known….”
This year’s first race at Talladega ended in just the opposite!
“I gotta apologize to Carl [Edwards] for wrecking him, but man the rule is you can’t below the yellow line. He blocked, and I wasn’t going below it. I don’t want to wreck a guy but you’re forcing the situation. This is NASCAR racing, and this is cool. I can’t believe it,” said Brad Keselowski after his first Cup win in his fifth Cup start.
That is what happened on the track during the race, but that is not what I am writing about. The problem with the yellow line that I am writing about, happens before the race even begins.
You see, I happened to tune in to the qualifying laps for Talladega as they where about in the middle of the pack, maybe towards the end, I don’t remember and I don’t care. What I care about is the qualifing lap I saw Max Papis lay down.
Now let me get this point right out there, I am NOT picking on Papis! He did what he had to do to qualify his car for this race, and what he did was perfectly within the rules, but yet, I cannot remember ever seeing it, or at least it never registered in my brain, until his qualifying laps.
During his qualifying run, Papis ran for a long while, on the apron of the track, UNDER the now DOUBLE yellow line.
As it turns out, after checking myself, and having my BOSS check it out, running under the double yellow, OUT OF BOUNDS line is perfectly legal during qualifying!
Now, as a member of the human race that still possesses some common sense, and after all the hype of the dreaded ‘yellow yellow line’, the thought occurred to me… why is running UNDER the yellow line legal in qualifying and not during the race? As it turns out, there IS no logical reason, it just IS!
NASCAR’s own rules state that at Talladega and Daytona, you cannot pass another competitor by going below the yellow line, thus improving your position.
Yes, I realize that Papis did NOT pass another car on the track, under the yellow line, improving his position during qualifying. How could he? He is the only one on the track at the time. However, it is at this point that I say that this is a GLARING point of how stupid NASCAR has become.
My point is simply this: A qualifying lap(s) is made to determine you startining position in the field. Papis had to ‘time in’, as did a number of others to even make the race. Papis did just that. However, in this game we call NASCAR, where HUNDRETHS, even less, of a second, can mean the difference of being ‘in’ or ‘out’, how can shortening the track by going below the yellow line (and I don’t mean just ‘dipping a wheel’, but the whole car below the line for an extended period of time), NOT be construed as ‘improving your position’?!
The simple fact is, you are racing on TIME for a POSITION! It does not matter if another car is on the track or not. By riding below (and yes, Papis was RIDING) the yellow line, he is shortening the track and PASSING other cars to improve his starting position! It is just not right. Either below the yellow line is out of bounds or it is not! Where is the gray area here?
Yes, the other cars can do it too, as the rule stands, and if they don’t do it, to shave a few seconds off their time then they are ignorant. But that is not the point.
The point is, NASCAR brass needs to look at this obvious over sight on their part, and I have no doubt that that is just what it is, an oversight.
Surely the powers that be are not so obtuse as to not see that a car passing on TIME or ON THE TRACK to improve their position is the same thing! I have more faith in Brian and Mike than that!
Stay off the wall and above the yellow!