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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I DON’T HAVE A NASCAR RULEBOOK, but….

I don’t have in my possession and have never read the Nascar rulebook other than snipits posted online but how can someone who is racing/crewchiefing/spotting and others associated with a multi million dollar and supposedly tier one race team not understand a simple rule as the Lucky Dog.

Flash back to the Dickies 500 at TMS and lap 120 when J.J. Yeley spins coming off Turn 4 and slides through the grass.

Elliott Sadler, as this happened was about to pass the 18 car however and while the nose of the 19 car was indeed ahead of the 18 car as the 19 spotter and the flagman announced that the race was under caution, there is always a second or moment delay from the actual caution call. This is simply the human aspect needed to ‘react’ to David Hoots’ call to ‘throw it out’. For this very reason Nascar begin using the scoring loops around the track in order to position cars after a caution.

But just after the caution flew, the 19 scanner commenced with a back and fourth banter and contradicting ‘rule quoting’. Which is really my whole issue for a ‘tier one’ race team. There should be zero, nada, banter as the rules in this case is very clear and should be second nature to everyone involved on race day.

Now before you hit the send button for the flaming emails, lets give some long over due credit to the whole 19 team and especially the driver for putting the 19 at that time of the race in position to be ‘debated’ for the lucky dog. And frankly more importantly ‘earning’ a lap back the hard way without the aid of the lucky dog pass just a few laps later. It was even more refreshing to see the 19 truly have a ‘top 15’ car by actually passing cars for position to gain that top 15. While the 19 was passed by ‘top 10’ cars, the 19 also passed other cars and held off countless charges from others. Honestly, the last 1/3 of the race, the 19 was not far off from a top 10, which is a nice change. Give credit where credit is due to the driver/spotter/CC/pit crew and over all effort, it was something that has not been the norm this season and maybe the spark to ignite good results next season.

But back to the issue at hand and I’ll attempt to highlight the 19 scanner chatter after the caution flew.

Spotter: “Good job! We should be the lucky dog ………………..no wait, they are saying the 18 then the 19.”

Driver: “You can’t get the Lucky Dog if you cause the caution.”

Spotter: “They are still saying the 18 then the 19.”

Crew Chief: “How can the 18 be ahead of us when he was spinning in the infield?”

Driver: “Tell Nascar I was ahead of the 18 when you (talking to the spotter) said ‘caution’. They are going back to the last loop in turn three. (pause) They need to be looking at were the cars were at the time of the caution.”

Which lies the rub, and the whole reason for the scoring loops in the first place.
Now it is understandable to question just how the 18 would be awarded (or in this case not) the lucky dog after spinning through the infield, but the back and fourth scanner banter was simply put, misdirected.

Starting with the driver’s comment of ‘you can’t get the lucky dog when causing a caution’. I’ll simply quote from a Jayski page on the lucky dog rule:
----Once the yellow flag is waved, all drivers must immediately reduce speed to a "cautious pace" and get in a single-file line behind the leader.
----Any driver involved in the incident that caused the caution will restart in the position they are able to return to the race without advancing their position.
----The rule further states that if the driver who is designated to receive the "Lucky Dog" brings out the yellow, then that driver does not get a lap back nor does anyone else.

So Sadler was half right in his statement, but his attempt to use selective reasoning for ignoring the scoring loops and how they should use and even the location of the loops is interesting to say the least. We all pretty much know what these scoring loops are, and their purpose, but Sadler fails to recognize that Nascar does not actually tell the teams (or the public) the location of the scoring loops for obvious reasons. (other than the start/finish line) Typically, Nascar places 12 to 24 scoring loops at any given tracks, and just a guess here, at a 1.5 mile track a higher number of loops would be used. For example, 20 scoring loops at TMS (1.5) miles spread out equally around the track would result in a less than 1.5 seconds at race speed between loops. Before the scoring loops, NASCAR used videotape and eyewitness accounts to attempt to establish the running order the instant the yellow flag is displayed. With 43 cars on the track at any given time, that process was just a cluster, and invited controversy.

One other side note, had the scoring loops not been used, the 19 car still may have not been awarded the Lucky Dog as when Brett announced the caution, the leader was in the act (just as the 19 was in the act of passing the 18 car) of putting another lead lap car a lap down a half a straight away ahead of the 19 car. Thus another cluster and controversy.

Once again, this seems to be an example of the need for teams to hire a ‘race day’ rules expert, someone whose only job on Sunday is to understand and apply the rules and when needed to question correctly any misunderstanding of the rule. After the race at the very least, and while I am not privy to any information if anyone from the 19 team did this or not, the rule book should have been broken out with all parties involved (driver/spotter/CC), and actually find the applicable rule and then go to Nascar for clarification. This is not only a problem with the action of some of the 19 team, but many athletes/teams from any level. But then again, with announcers and personalities the likes of Jimmy Spenser who try to interpret rules by word of mouth, it isn’t any wonder teams get confused.

It is easy to not agree with a rule in any sport, but to not understand them and their application at that level is a problem. There is simply too much money at stake.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post. In my opinion NASCAR officials have a lot of work to do during the off season. First and foremost FIX THE TOP 35 RULE !!!

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding, based on the replay, that the 19 only passed the 18 because the 18 spun. He was actually several car lengths behind him at the time of his spinning. The 18 was the car who would've gotten the "lucky dog" if it had been someone else causing the yellow to come out. Since Elliott only passed Yeley because he was in the process of causing the caution, he is not entitled to the free pass and no one else would be either. I am not privy to the Nascar rulebook and maybe I'm wrong, but that's been my understanding from day one, regardless who would be the beneficiary. I was arguing that point to my husband on Sunday, so why the 19 team thought they should have the lap back makes no sense to me.

go 19 and 12

vroom said...

Hopefully Elliott will be up from in the #19 next year and won't have to worry about Lucky Dogs or unlucky cats!

Anonymous said...

Great blog and I agree that there are a lot of prominent sports people who don't know the rules in their sport. I must have missed this back and fourth stuff on Track Pass between Elliott and Brett. Or maybe Track Pass was censoring it due to the foul language heard most recently over the 19 scanner.

Anonymous said...

It is not just Sadler and company, I have been to high level professional baseball games and heard coaches argue that a TIE GOES TO THE RUNNER! You won't find that mentioned in the rule book, but you hear it over and over and many coaches a duped into thinking it is a true rule.

I would have though an Evernham race team should be more schooled in the rules even though you hate Sadler and point that out any chance you get, you make a good point.