NASCAR & Auto Racing

What happens when rules are made with wiggle room

Notes and observations on NASCAR, motorsports and more from the Observer's beat writer:

OBSERVATIONS

Forecast could spell 500 trouble for some

The forecast for Bank of America 500 qualifying Thursday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway isn't great.

If it rains qualifying out, Brad Keselowski, Scott Speed and Bryan Clauson would join Derrike Cope in not making the race. You'd hate to see them not get a chance to even try to make the race, but that may be how it works out.

Talladega fans can't have cake, etc.

Those who think the racing is so great at Talladega need to understand that if you're going to have that kind of racing then bump-drafting and blocking are a part of the deal.

You can't say that kind of racing is great and then complain when a guy slamming somebody in the rear bumper to try to push him to the front hits him too hard or at a bad angle by some miniscule fraction and causes a big wreck. And you can't say that if a driver leading the race or even one of the lines in the draft makes a move to block the advance of somebody else.

If you didn't have bump-drafting and blocking, you wouldn't have the racing that you love so much. They're part of the same package.

MY TWO CENTS

NASCAR's clarification comes with cost

Confusion over how the yellow-line rule would be called on the final lap of races at Talladega and Daytona created a huge mess in Sunday's Amp Energy 500, and that is entirely NASCAR's fault.

Officials tried to create room in the rule to set up heart-stopping, last-lap finishes in restrictor-plate races, saying things like "you can get all you can get within sight of the checkered flag" that basically meant the rule was the rule on every lap but the last lap.

The storm following Sunday's race forced NASCAR to close that loophole once and for all with its Monday statement clarifying the policy. But that came too late to help Tony Stewart, the declared winner on Sunday, and Regan Smith, who many fans still feel got "cheated" by the decision.

It also came too late to keep the sport from suffering another blow to the credibility of its officiating.

But just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard - and that's saying something - is that because NASCAR let Dale Earnhardt Jr. pass below the yellow line at Talladega in a race in 2003 that it set some kind of precedent that must continue to be followed.

NASCAR botched that call, badly, and the last thing it should do is keep making the same bad call over and over again.

Nobody has preached more about NASCAR needing to be consistent with its rules, but it needs to be consistent in calling them properly. Bad calls happen in every sport, but the goal is to get it right, not to miss it the same way time after time.

BY THE NUMBERS

1,169 - Laps led by Jimmie Johnson in 14 career Cup starts at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

2,339 - Laps led by Bobby Allison at Lowe's Motor Speedway, making him the all-time leader in that category. It took Allison 43 starts to reach that total.

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