Let’s beat a dead horse, shall we?
Much like most things in the modern NASCAR, the current overtime rule is a problem that was designed to fix a previous problem that solved a problem that no one had in the first place.
It’s time to go back to move forward.
This is probably an excessive and unnecessary column because NASCAR has already acknowledged in their own way the flaws with the rule. It’s also something the industry is probably stuck with because NASCAR doesn’t want to hastily implement a new rule during the regular season.
With that said, there’s no reason to construct a new rule, because the old ones were just fine.
Even though it’s never been explicitly stated, the overtime line was drawn on tracks from coast to coast because Kevin Harvick exploited the green-white-checkered rule in 2015 during the Talladega Chase for the Championship race.
Coming to the green flag with an expiring engine, Harvick needed the race to end before he lost too many positions, and got one when he fortuitously made contact with Trevor Bayne. The contact ended the race and temporarily staved off his elimination from the playoffs.
Unable to find substantial proof that the contact was on purpose, NASCAR constructed a new rule rather than penalize the exploitation of the old one.
So here we are.
Time after time this season, NASCAR has been subjected to judgement calls on when to throw a caution during overtime. This past Sunday, facing impending darkness, NASCAR seemed to wait until leader Kasey Kahne crossed the overtime line to throw the caution even though the crash had been well under way for several seconds.
NASCAR vice president and racing development officer Steve O’Donnell refuted the notion that darkness played a role in race control’s decision on Sunday but that was one too many times that the Sanctioning Body was forced to play arbiter in something that’s supposed to be cut-and-dry.
Thus, the overtime line has to go.
Unpopular opinion: There was nothing wrong with racing to the scheduled distance. Sure, the modern fan demands a green flag finish, but the modern fan wants rainbow powered unicorns too. Overtime creates a crutch for drivers to race recklessly knowing it could give them more chances at the win.
It also creates scenarios like what happened at Talladega.
But that’s a moot point, because like the playoffs and D-shaped intermediates, overtime rules are here to stay.
So what can be done? It’s quite simple, really.
The ARCA Racing Series features unlimited attempts to finish the race under green. If that’s what the market demands, follow their lead, and give it to them. If NASCAR’s desire is to give fans a green flag finish, then give it to them.
The overtime line is a half-hearted attempt to say they at least tried. If NASCAR is willing to give drivers half a lap to settle it, what’s the harm in giving them a full lap?
If that’s unacceptable, then just use the green-white-checkered rule that largely worked devoid of controversy for over a decade.
But at the end of the day, none of this solves the biggest problem with any overtime rule: the timing of a caution falling to NASCAR’s discretion.
There’s no doubt that the crash that ended the Brickyard 400 happened well before Kasey Kahne crossed the overtime line. There’s also no doubt that it didn’t make a difference because the track was too dark to resume track activity.
Kahne wins that race no matter what.
But the silly overtime line rule was a procedure no one needed, didn’t want, and doesn’t work.
Give it the boot before it alters the course of this season’s playoff run.