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.
Not even close pic.twitter.com/fTacjfM4fg
— Anthony Barbone (@anthony_barbone) July 1, 2017
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.