NASCAR Needs To Rid Of Yellow Line Rule

[media-credit name=”Steven Iles” align=”alignright” width=”223″][/media-credit]It has been the topic of controversy ever since it was implemented in 2001 and it is causing more controversy today after the end of the Aaron’s 499, which had Jimmie Johnson crossing the line for his 54th career victory by 0.002 seconds, tying the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 for the closest finish in NASCAR history. However there is some controversy that comes along with the win.

Let’s be quite honest here, the yellow line rule is crap. The yellow line rule was implemented because of Dale Earnhardt’s death. Earth to all NASCAR fans: Going below the yellow line had nothing to do with Dale’s death. Nothing. Despite the fact he passed over a decade ago, his death has completely changed the sport and sometimes not in good ways. Earnhardt was killed because of his excessive blocking and he made one wrong move too many during that race. Marlin dipped below the yellow line after the initial contact to avoid getting into the mess. Unfortunately, our man of the hour, who this morning forgot to take a shower, Mike Helton,  fails to realize that the yellow line rule actually causes more excessive blocking, more crashes, and more confused fans.

After the 2003 EA Sports 500, Helton made it apparently clear that you could go below the yellow line if you were in the lead. That was his explanation after the controversy between Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. Jr. actually wasn’t in the lead before he dipped below the line and the win should have gone to the second place driver, that being Kevin Harvick. If NASCAR was consistent, Jr. would have been placed in in 17th. NASCAR was too afraid of upsetting Junior Nation in this case.
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Sometimes even the announcers are confused. For example, during the Tony Stewart-Regan Smith debacle, Andy Petree actually thought it was legal to go below the yellow line on the final lap. In all honesty, did Regan Smith deserve to go from 2nd to 18th? No. Tony forced him below the line. If he moved up, he would have caused a huge accident. I have a new slogan, “Like big government. NASCAR Is There.”

The first person to be caught under this rule was Tony Stewart during the 2001 Pepsi 400, the first race with the new rule. He was forced below the line by Johnny Benson and also really had no choice. Stewart was so fed up with NASCAR, he refused to answer the black flag. That didn’t please the dictators very much and that relegated him to a 26th place finish. The Carl Edwards incident of 2009 can be tied in with this, along with Hamlin and Johnson this year.

Denny Hamlin won the Budweiser Shootout. After looking at different camera angles, photos, video, and pausing at the right time. Hamlin had the lead and his tires were “ON”, but not below the yellow line before he went down. He won the race. NASCAR yet again needs to be more consistent with its rulings. Why do you think NASCAR has a poor reputation in many parts of the sports world? A reporter even went as far to compare NASCAR with UFC, WWE, and boxing. Oh and by the way, Stewart did that in 2007 and was fined heavily. NASCAR doesn’t want to hear what others say. They run the show. I have something to tell you. Freedom of Speech. This is America.

Now, going into today’s incident I went onto Yahoo Sports and they claimed it was a legal pass based off one photo. The problem with basing your argument off one photo is that another photo at a different time may have a different look. It’s like blaming a guy for murder based off a picture of him having a gun, only to look at a second photo of that man being shot four times in the chest. The photo Yahoo had put on the web showed Johnson “ON”, but below the line. The in-car feed from Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed Johnson go just below the line for like a quarter or half a second. The question is not whether he went below the yellow line or not, we know he did, but was that short second below the yellow line what sent him past Mark Martin? That is debatable. Jimmie and Dale definitely had the momentum coming to the line. It set up a fantastic finish.

It set up an exciting finish, but do fans like this type of racing? No. According to a new poll, 74% of NASCAR fans prefer pack racing rather than the two-by-two tangos. I prefer the pack racing to be honest, but your opinion is your opinion and you won’t be criticized for it.

Finally, I had some heated exchanges today with some fellow reporters. One said, “What does the Budweiser Shootout have to do with anything? Denny admitted to going below the yellow line to pass Jimmie Johnson. Were you not listening to what he said? He purposefully went below.”

First of all, Jimmie Johnson had no influence on the finish and had nothing to do with it, so I’m afraid you’re wrong on that part. Who gives a crap about what he said? Let’s look at the footage shall we?

What do you see there? Hamlin got robbed. Anyway, it was a fantastic race. Don’t take that away. Leave your comments below, Facebook me, or email your opinion at

My grandfather passed this weekend and I would like to send condolences to my father, brother, and the rest of the O’Hara family. Happy Easter and we’ll see you at Richmond in two weeks!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


  1. Jim: I believe you are referring either to the 1997 DieHard 500 or the race when Gordon got in the back of Schrader.

    During both of those races, he was not below the line. He drafted Schrader too hard first of all. Secondly, he cut a tire in the 1997 race which caused a huge pileup.

  2. JB: poll. It closed with about 73% liking the pack racing.

    Think about it, the drivers express their opinions (Newman, Hamlin) and get secretly fined? What gives there?

    • What gives there is; the 1st Amendment prohibits the federal government from restricting free speech! NASCAR might be powerful but, the federal government, they’re not and therefore the 1st Amendment does not apply to them. …Sorry, but people citing the 1st Amendment in these circumstances is a pet- peeve of mine.
      And for the record, I thought the race was pretty good! Full disclosure, I’, 48 fan.

  3. First I don’t think JJ made a pass when he went below the line. I am a HMS hater period but I think the pass was legit. However, there would have been no call because it was a HMS driver period. If it had been Blaney that did that, NASCAR would have invented something to set him back and give it to either Clint or Jeff, low budget teams are not allowed in Victory Lane.

    I hate the two car tango, it shows no skill on a driver at all. At least with Pack racing those who know how to manipulate the draft are the ones that win the race. To see drivers work their way up from 25th to 30th the last 10 to 15 laps of a plate race is awesome.

    My solution, Bring back the Wickerbill. That was some of the best plate racing we have seen this century.

  4. You are missing what the rule says. You cannot go below the yellow line. It doesn’t say anything about being on it.
    Nascar is not very clear on this rule in the rule book. It looks like Johnson did touch the line but didn’t go below it. JMO.

  5. I have two simple questions.

    a. Exactly what “new poll” are you referring to and,
    b. What does First Amendment have to do with this?

    Just curious,

  6. Drafting is all the same either two by two or a big pack. When the pack comes back people will cry it is unsafe, so what gives? If Jr. were winning these two by two races the annoucers would be praising it and the fans too. Its still darn good racing! I’m cool with either version of drafting, what I HATE is Nasacar continuously slowing these guys down!. That’s the whole problem, let them go 230 it would really weed out the pretenders. They are superspeedways for a reason.

  7. The yellow line rule was implemented because of cars going down to the apron, making a pass and then causing a huge pile up when they came back up on the track. Jeff Gordon did it but I can’t remember which race.

    The yellow line rule was never about Dale Sr’s death.


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