NASCAR gets it right with movement of overtime line

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By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

After seeing nothing but occasional frustration come from it, NASCAR is moving the overtime line.

And by moving, they effectively mean getting rid of it.

Good call, NASCAR.

The sanctioning body announced Wednesday that they’re moving the placement of the overtime line from the marker’s current varied placement – typically on the backstretch or entrance to Turn 3 on ovals – to one centralized location in the start-finish line.

While In doing so NASCAR effectively ends the original concept of the overtime line, changing the overtime format to require one completed lap under green for the race to end under yellow.

Sound familiar? It should. As NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan quickly noted on Twitter, the “new” overtime rules are essentially just the green-white-checkered finishing rules used in the sport from 2010-15 with one significant edition – unlimited attempts at a green-flag finish until a lap is completed.

Considering the controversy that’s surrounded NASCAR overtime in recent months, that’s a significant step in the right direction.

NASCAR first came up with the idea of overtime with the driver’s council in response to a controversial finish to the fall 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, where an infamous crash involving eventual Championship 4 qualifier Kevin Harvick shortly after the green flag flew brought the third and final attempt at a finish under that year’s race-ending rules to a close.

While well intentioned, the overtime line simply hasn’t worked.

The line proved confusing for the casual fan from the beginning, mostly because its placement was inconsistent. At some tracks the line could be found on the backstretch, near the halfway point of a lap. At others it was located all the way over in Turn 3.

There have only been a handful of times that the overtime line has actually come into play in the short period of time that it’s been around. More of them have been bad than good.

The first major outcry for the line to be moved came last month following the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway, where a delayed caution saw the race end early despite the fact that the crash that yielded it came before leader William Byron crossed the overtime line.

NASCAR rightfully attributed any delays to natural human reaction, which is understandable, but that didn’t stop the immediate and fair criticism issued to the finish. JeffGluck.com’s namesake wrote about his acquired disdain for the overtime line. Yahoo Sports’ Nick Bromberg also called for the end of the overtime line after the incident.

The sanctioning body elected to keep the rules only to suffer another setback just three weeks later in one of the sport’s marquee events, as a spirited duel between Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski at Indianapolis Motor Speedway came to an anticlimactic conclusion with a delayed yellow bringing the Brickyard 400 to an end in overtime.

After a second blunder, the time had come for the line to go.

Don’t just take my word for it. Chief Racing Development Officer and executive vice president Steve O’Donnell and 14-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. share the same sentiment.

https://twitter.com/DaleJr/status/892848774682488834

This year’s Brickyard 400 was one of the best seen in the race’s 24 years, but the controversial ending left the event with a sour aftertaste.

The thing is, things could’ve gotten worse. The two poor showings for the overtime thus far both came during the regular season. If a similar issue occurred in the playoffs, where the timing of a race finish can dictate an entire round or even the championship, the outrage would increase tenfold.

Can you imagine the sanctioning body having to explain to someone that the reason their favorite driver didn’t get a shot at a win and playoff advancement was because of human delay to call a caution on the backstretch?

That would be ugly.

Don’t get me wrong – this could still theoretically happen at the start-finish line. But the beauty of this change is that it gives the field more time to battle for position and therefore makes race endings just a bit more authentic. With the former overtime line placement the field was often barely up to speed by the time they’d reach it. Now they’ll have a full lap, meaning they should get upwards of half a lap at pace. By that point the race is often decided anyways.

I still don’t think this change is the perfect solution. As a purist I’d rather see NASCAR end at the scheduled distance, and common sense would say that if they wish to avoid finishes under caution they might as well implement similar rules to those used by the ARCA Racing Series and require the race to end under the green flag. There’s also potential that NASCAR officials could use video replay to examine crashes and determine the true point of caution as opposed to the delayed time when the caution lights are activated.

Still, the essential elimination of the overtime line makes race endings simpler and promises fans that much more green-flag racing, and that’s a positive step.

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