Goodbye, overtime line rule

If the end of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race doesn’t turn out to be the death of NASCAR’s Overtime Line rule, I’ll be surprised.

This well-intentioned rule unfortunately just doesn’t work. Now it’s time to come up with a different solution before a playoff race gets tainted by an ugly finish.

On Saturday, at the end of a twice-delayed race and with the drivers meeting for the Cup race quickly approaching, there was a multi-car crash in overtime before leaders reached the overtime line.

It wasn’t that close, so NASCAR could have called for a caution and reset for another overtime attempt after what would have been the fourth red flag of the race.

But instead, officials appeared to hold the flag until the leaders crossed the overtime line and then called for the caution — thus ending the race. It was a totally unsatisfying and disappointing ending to a race fans had invested many hours in watching since Friday night.

Look, I get that it would have been a huge headache to extend the race further. The clock was definitely ticking.

But if you have a rule, then follow the rule. In this case, it looked like NASCAR stalled long enough to just end the race and get it over with. That’s not cool if so, and it strips any remaining purpose of having the rule in the first place.

I’ve been a supporter of this rule for awhile and argued NASCAR should keep it for plate tracks, even after everyone got pissed over the Dover finish last month.

But now I’m off that bandwagon altogether. It’s just not the right solution.

That’s a shame, because this seemed to have a lot of potential for a good compromise. Unlimited green-white-checkered attempts are insane for plate tracks, so that’s not a viable fix. But after the infamous Kevin Harvick/Trevor Bayne incident at Talladega, there needed to be more than just a “single attempt” at a green-flag finish.

So the overtime line was created, pushed in large part by the drivers council, and it put safety in mind while also retaining some entertainment value for those fans who despise the idea of seeing a race end under caution.

It was supposed to make everyone happy, but now seems to make no one happy. It’s just not working.

I’m not sure what the solution is. I hate to say this, but until someone figures it out, NASCAR might just have to end these plate races under caution and be done with it.

UPDATE: I asked for NASCAR’s explanation and received it after posting this column. NASCAR says there was no intentional delay to let the leaders cross the line. NASCAR says any delay — approximately two seconds — was a natural human delay from recognizing the crash, calling for the caution and getting the lights/flag activated.

26 Replies to “Goodbye, overtime line rule”

  1. In my opinion the solution would be if they want to keep the line then it should be on the white flag lap and not the first lap. With the leader only having to make it half a lap it really makes the overtime thing not much of an overtime at all. Fans like to see the field taking the white and trying to complete the final, so if they did that, and maybe even move the line closer to the start/finish so if the race is called at this line, the fans there at least can see it better. This would at least help unless they could do the best thing which is what ARCA does for the fans. JMO

  2. Regarding the Trevor Bayne/Harvick incident at Talledega, I think that you have to have a rule to prevent that sort of gamesmanship. Okay, so you don’t like that they didn’t reach the line before they wrecked? Move the line to the end of the second turn.

    I always thought that the overtime line was way too far out there to determine a “clean start”, which, I feel, is the only reason to have that line- to insure clean starts, and avoid the Talledega travesty.

    Then I am all for ending under yellow. Especially at plate tracks.

  3. This rule has stunk since it was announced. Horrible. Either end the race under caution at the scheduled distance or give the fans (and the teams!) a green flag finish. ARCA has it figured out. NASCAR should copy their end-of-race caution/GWC policy verbatim.

  4. I understand the impetus of the current rule, especially because of the horrible ending of the fall 2015 Talladega race. However, I agree, it’s time for it to go.

    I’m not sure the best reform though. Move it farther back into turn 3 and 4? Make it just unlimited till you get back to the start finish line? Personally, I thought three attempts were a good compromise from 2010 and 15 but I know it’s not coming back.

    In the end, I guess I have no better ideas

  5. I would embrace the insanity of unlimited attempts at a GWC finish on plate tracks plus everywhere else. I don’t care if it causes a big one or two because sooner or later the drivers will figure out how not to wreck. Finishing a race at an unknown point under yellow lacks excitement and it personally leaves me feeling like I have wasted my time. When they used to race back to the yellow back in the day it did not bother me that a race went the rest of the distance under yellow because I knew that when the yellow came out the race would end at the start finish line (ie: Dale’s 1998 Daytona win).

  6. I may be wrong but I believe it was Clint Bowyer who said (and I’m not quoting him) this was a rule designed by the drivers, for the drivers & teams and not beneficial to the fans. I think we saw just how true that was today. While there are some who are perfectly happy with the way that race ended, I am not one of them nor will I apologize for that. There’s a reason fans flock to Daytona & Talladega every year while other places struggle to be at 50% capacity.

  7. Everyone seems to forget that the only reason the Harvick deal happened was because NASCAR decided to make it 1 g-w-c attempt for that particular Talladega race. Should be unlimited g-w-c attempts unless they take the white flag, if they take the white and something happens to cause a caution, then it’s over, but no need for a overtime line, which robs of any true finish.

  8. If the race ends at the start/finish line at plate tracks without caution, you will continue to have engines, front clips and various large pieces of cars landing on spectators from the wrecks that inevitably happen. I hope we can all agree that is unacceptable.

    At least now the wrecks happen on the backstretch (don’t think there wasn’t significant consideration of the reduction in liability from that decision).

    I would love to see these races end at speed at the regulation distance. But assuming cars stop ripping through the fence/throwing engines into the crowd/shredding to pieces around the upside down drivers (fat chance of that happening), tell me how “satisfying” plate races would be while we watch unlimited attempts to declare a winner at the line while all the knuckleheads from 5th on back repeatedly wreck the field.

    Sure, there is a certain aspect of demo derby already inherent in plates races, and if your guy/team/brand isn’t about to win it can be easier to stomach the carnage. But we’ve seen today, and during other racers, that even the fastest cars driven by the best plate racers are not immune to the pinball effects of wrecking at plate tracks just because they’re at the front of the pack. Or, from flat out getting punted by the guy behind them. Intentionally or not.

    Imagine watching a multi-attempt finish, complete with 3, 4, maybe 5 red flags for clean up (how many extra hours would that race be?) where the eventual winner is a guy from a 3rd tier, part-time team just because he was so far back, and so slow all race that he managed to survive all the chaos in front of him. Yeah, the internet would surely be giddy with excitement over that.

    And I’m the guy who stays up all night on a weeknight to see a plate race to completion. And would happily watch 7 hours of NASCAR a day, through all the red flags, rain delays, wrecks, pot holes and jet dryer fires circumstance can throw at us. I’ll cut the grass or shop for food tomorrow. Gimme all the racing I can get today. But I’m the outlier. Every day the internet keeps screaming for shorter races.

    I can live with the overtime line solely at the two plate tracks (think of it as this milleniums extension of the restrictor plate…shudder…) – on the back stretch and only on the white flag lap. If it’s the only way of keeping cars and parts out of the stands, I can sacrifice a half lap of racing.

    But NASCAR has to use the rule – consistently- as it was intended.

    Doesrit always seem to come back to them following their own rules?

    I won’t be holding my breath on that prospect.

  9. On the overtime line itself: I guess my feelings are that the ‘end of race’ rules should be ‘Make every reasonable attempt to end under green.’ The sticking point, of course, is defining ‘reasonable.’

    As to today’s finish: I didn’t think it was as horrible as some are making it out to be. The overtime line *is* the current rule, and NASCAR has frequently held out on throwing the yellow on the last lap of races. As it was happening, I thought:
    – Oh no, wrecking!
    – Where’s the Caution?
    – Oh, they must be waiting to put it out until the leaders cross the OT line.

  10. I’d like to see them bring back the 3 attempt rule and then what I’d like to see (and I admit this would not be a “simple” fix) would be something like the overtime line, but instead, if the wreck happens BEHIND you (presumably the leader) and after a “safety line” then everyone in front of the wreck races back to the line.

    The “safety line” would need to be far enough past the finish line the cars can slow down after the race without causing a pile up, wherever that may be on each track.

    This would only apply after the white flag, because anything else would result in another attempt (up to 3, or what ever number is chosen). They could even reduce the number to 1 for plate tracks if they want.

  11. Here’s an idea… Go to the Eldora truck race. Take careful notes on how they do it. Now, go back and do all the races in the three series that way. I’m saying you have practice; qualifying; heat races; last chance race and a feature all in one day. Shorten the feature a little and only green flag laps count. Three shots at a green flag finish and if all three restarts are yellowed, leader at the line in the third yellow restart wins.

  12. I don’t like the overtime line either but I do think it needs to stay in place at the plate tracks. As for today, we have saw plenty of finishes like this. Where we wondered why they did or didn’t throw the flag.

  13. The overtime line is great, they just use it on the wrong lap! The overtime line should be in play on the white flag lap, not the get up to speed lap. If a wreck occurs before the line on the white flag lap, you call the caution and re-do it. However, if a wreck occurs after the line on the last lap, there is no need to even throw the caution! The leaders have more than enough time to get slowed down after coming back around from crossing the finish line. People who say that throwing a caution for a wreck on the backstretch on the last lap is for safety reasons are just plain wrong. Especially at a plate race, drivers behind the wreck arent going to slow down just because the caution lights came on. In fact, sometimes the only way to miss a wreck is to keep full speed ahead. So, nothing is gained in terms of safety by throwing a caution when everyone is racing in one pack.

  14. Yup. Something should be done, however; I sure as shooting have not got the answer. No matter what, if any change, is decided, multitudes will find fault.

  15. NASCAR does what they want regardless of rules. Personally I think the whole thing is a joke. But so is not racing to the caution, Lucky dog, putt-putting down pit road, etc, etc, etc.

  16. Nascar’s decline in fans is due to all the stinking rule changes. Bristol use to be a sell out track but now since its regrade of the corners its as boring as Pocono or Michigan. Nascar has left its roots and sold out its true fans. If they are worried about the fans at super speedways move them back 20 to 30 rows of seats from the track. Not like there aren’t enough empty seats in stands to put them in. Might even help make the stands look alittle fuller than they are now. Nascar loose the overtime rule. I cringe every time I hear them same we are going to “overtime” like we the fans are getting something out of it. Just means the fans are about to get screwed out of a good finish.

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