From the Marbles

Hot/Not: One day, NASCAR will get a hold of its yellow-line rule

Geoffrey Miller
From The Marbles

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NASCAR's version of the two-step returned over the weekend at Talladega with a finish more thrilling (but with less press box clapping) than February's Daytona 500. As always, a weekend at the 2.66-mile central Alabama behemoth leaves us with plenty to discuss. Jumping in:

NOT: I hate to start this with a negative, but the yellow-line rule NASCAR has implemented at restrictor-plate tracks is still far from perfect. As a result, the Twitter hivemind was abuzz Sunday night and some of Monday with fans and media members alike saying Jimmie Johnson's tri-oval pass was illegal.

The contention was that Johnson — and his pushing teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. — had passed Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon by dipping between the yellow line mere yards from the finish line. Replays showed the two Hendrick machines got awful close and probably drove on top of the yellow line. NASCAR, though, ruled that it wasn't a violation of the yellow-line rule and the passes were allowed to stand.

The problem here isn't NASCAR's ruling. Once again, it's NASCAR's unwillingness to be completely transparent about the rule. Therefore, its interpretations of moves on the track leave questions open from many and allow for situations like Sunday's to crop up.

Two things would go a long ways to fixing this. First, a written rulebook — or at least the in-race rules sections of the rulebook — should be available to fans. Second, if there's any thought of discrepancy over the finish of a race, a high-ranking NASCAR official should be interviewed in the post-race broadcast to set the record straight.

Right or wrong, at least fans would have an idea what NASCAR was thinking.

HOT: That said, can you seriously rank Sunday's finish behind any in NASCAR history? A slight gust of wind, so it seems, could have made the seventh-place finisher the winner while the winner took seventh. Gladly, I'll put the 2003 Darlington finish between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch on a very-close-to-level playing field if only because it happened after a grueling day at Darlington.

However, Talladega just might take the cake because of how clean and exacting every driver was in the final laps. I'm still waiting for the caution flag to fly and subsequent green-white-checkered attempts — but, alas, Jimmie Johnson has the trophy.

NOT: The tandem racing, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. waxed not-so-poetic about Saturday, indeed seems to be running its course of being interesting. At first it was a novelty and proved exciting because of the different style. {ysp:more}

Now, Talladega has evolved into the three-hour equivalent of a basketball team holding the ball at halfcourt before trying to win the game in the final minute. This is not to say, however, that reverting to the most recent prior form of drafting is the answer. If you remember, teams were beginning to get savvy by organizing the field into a single-wide freight train. NASCAR's got some work to do.

NEUTRAL: Dave Blaney's performance in Tommy Baldwin Racing's No. 36 Sunday certainly was notable. The sprint car ace led 21 laps — second only to Clint Bowyer's 38 — before contact from Kurt Busch left him as the last finishing car on the lead lap.

What wasn't notable, however, was the FOX crew gushing about how Blaney's run was TBR's coming of age as a team. That's a great feel-good story and all, but it's wrong. Instead, Blaney's run proved the two-car drafting style is even more of a wild card for everyone than traditional pack racing ever was.

NOT: Can you believe how lame Auburn's Gene Chizik was in giving the command for drivers to start their engines? For a guy with a supposed fiery football demeanor, that was a total letdown.

NEUTRAL: Joe Nemechek's third-place run in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Talladega felt like a blast from NEMCO past, when the No. 87 was consistently a frontrunner in Nationwide restrictor plate events. In fact, Nemechek might have won had the race stayed green.

Sunday, though, Nemechek and his teammate Kevin Conway were two of the first three start-and-park finishers. Conway pulled off after a single lap while Nemechek made it five laps before making the hard left turn into the garage.

I get the economics of what Nemechek is doing, but it's still disappointing.

HOT: Speaking of the Nationwide Series race, did you see how damaged that Kyle Busch's winning No. 18 Toyota was? Two-car drafting has seemingly torn down many old beliefs about the aerodynamics required for restrictor-plate racing. Is that a good or bad thing?

NOT: Some felt NASCAR should have allowed the Nationwide race to finish under green after Mike Wallace flipped on the white-flag lap. Can you think of a more ludicrous idea? I can't. Safety is paramount, and a car sitting sideways on the track with more coming behind it at full speed isn't safe.

NOT: I know it's a holiday weekend coming up, but NASCAR really should rethink being off our televisions for two weeks after a Talladega race. When's the last time a Talladega race finished without "SportsCenter" finding more-than-normal interest in a particular moment in it? Sunday's race and the finish put NASCAR early in the broadcast — much to the chagrin of stick-and-ball types.

Major League Baseball and the NBA both will be in action Sunday; why can't NASCAR be in the weekend mix? You know you'd watch.

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