One day late to avoid controversy at Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR on Monday clarified its rule about racing below the yellow line to the inside at that track and at Daytona Superspeedway.
NASCAR president Mike Helton issued a statement defending the decision to penalize Regan Smith for his below-the-line pass for the lead of Tony Stewart on the final lap of Sunday’s Amp Energy 500. Stewart was ruled the winner and Smith was relegated to 18th place, the last car on the lead lap, after that move.
"During the last lap of yesterday's race at Talladega Superspeedway the driver of the No. 01 (Smith) violated NASCAR policy by driving under the yellow line to improve his position," Helton said. "In NASCAR's opinion he was not forced below the yellow line. NASCAR correctly took immediate action to enforce the policy by penalizing the No. 01 and scoring the No. 20 (Stewart) as the race winner."
Smith said after taking the checkered flag on Sunday that Stewart forced him to go beneath the line. He also said he believed it was allowed for a driver to go below the line to make a pass on the final lap of a race.
Indeed, after a similar incident in a Truck Series race at Daytona in February 2007 NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said that within site of the checkered flag a driver can “get what he can get.” And although NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said after Sunday’s race that’s not the rule, an Associated Press reporter said Sunday night that NASCAR vice president for competition Robin Pemberton told her a below-the-line pass was allowed within sight of the flagstand on the final lap.
Helton ended that confusion Monday.
“To be clear, as we go forward, there will be no passing under the yellow line at any time during NASCAR races at Daytona or Talladega, period,” he said. “This includes any passing below the yellow line near the start/finish line on the final lap.”
Helton also said drivers were given clear instruction in Sunday’s pre-race drivers’ meeting, saying the rule was given to the drivers as follows:
"This is your warning: race above the yellow line. If, in NASCAR's judgment, you go below the yellow line to improve your position, you will be black-flagged. If in NASCAR's judgment you force someone below the yellow line (in an effort to stop him from passing you), you may be black-flagged.”
--Denny Hamlin was released Monday morning from University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital after spending the night there following his crash in Sunday’s race.
--AJ Allmendinger will attempt to get the No. 00 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing into the field for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Michael McDowell had been the driver of the No. 00, but Kenny Wallace was in it at Talladega this weekend.
--Jack Sprague was released Monday as driver of the No. 2 Chevrolets in the Truck Series by Kevin Harvick Inc. Harvick will drive the truck at Martinsville on Oct. 18th with a driver lineup for the remainder of the season to be announced later.
--Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman will join dirt late model racing legend Scott Bloomquist, a four-time winner at the four-tenths mile track, and stars from the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Wednesday night at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the Armour Foods Vienna Sausage Showdown. The 50-lap feature kicks off Bank of America 500 week at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Kevin Harvick won’t be racing, but he will be signing autographs for fans under the grandstands when spectator gates open at 5 p.m. Advance tickets are $25 for adults and may be purchased at www.lowesmotorspeedway.com or by calling (800) 455-FANS.