One of the forgotten flags of NASCAR came back with a vengeance at Speedweeks 2018.
There have now been four times in the last week of racing at Daytona International Speedway where the black flag has waved to deeply hurt a strong contender.
It all started with the Advance Auto Parts Clash. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. attempted a pass on Kyle Busch, who in return forced Stenhouse under the yellow line. Stenhouse completed the pass below the line and was punished by NASCAR with a pass-through penalty.
A bit of a fan uproar followed. Among the critics was the sport’s Most Popular Driver-turned-analyst.
That’s not always been the case for the last 15+ years. When did this change? We have allowed others to advance if it was clear they were forced below the line. https://t.co/dfQU6q0i4V
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 11, 2018
Can’t be more clear than what is played at every Speedway driver meeting and was talked about this morning as well. You can’t advance your position. Only judgement is if position was immediately given back. It was not. https://t.co/KenHUkpumO
— Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) February 11, 2018
The next two black flags occurred in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 17).
“I guess I’ve got a misunderstanding of the rule so I’m sure they’ll explain it to me,” Sadler said. “I thought you couldn’t lock bumpers to gain a position.”
Sadler and Elliott did not advance their positions while their bumpers were locked.
“You could black flag every single car in the field [for locking bumpers] because out of the 143 laps, 90 laps we were tandem [drafting],” Sadler added. One of his JR Motorsports owners agreed.
I don’t get why the car in front gets penalized in the locking bumper situation. Like what can the guy in front do to get himself out of that situation without wrecking himself or others?
— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) February 17, 2018
Then there was last black flag of this Speedweeks, also doubling as the most controversial. A little later in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race, Ryan Truex got a huge run on Ryan Reed and attempted to go underneath him on the backstretch.
Truex’s move was a little late, though as Reed moved down to block him right at the entrance to Turn 3. Truex took evasive action and nearly spun out on the apron of the turn. Behind him, a wreck ensued.
After the incident, Reed was also hit with a pass-through penalty for blocking.
“[Truex] pulled out, and I went to block him a little bit, but then when he pulled out, I got loose and kind of chased it down the track,” Reed explained. “The passing below the yellow line or forcing below the yellow line, that’s been a hot one this whole Speedweeks.”
But what makes the black flag enforcement more controversial are instances in which it has not been displayed.
In the Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona Friday night (Feb. 16), Johnny Sauter was forced below the yellow line by Justin Haley. Sauter advanced his position and went on to win the race. Neither party was penalized for the incident.
— JBrig (@brigance_j) February 17, 2018
Bad angle. 24 truck loose. Comes down track. Both trucks went there to avoid in our opinion https://t.co/y8gIj7dwsk
— Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) February 17, 2018
“If it was just me,” Reed said, “then I would say I need a better definition, but there was a lot of guys getting clipped with that this week.”
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