Friday nights Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 XFINITY series event at Daytona International Speedway had the potential to be a huge night for the series. Great racing, thrilling moments, and an upset winner going to Victory Lane in just his second series start.
A 19-year-old kid who happens to have amassed a fair amount of accolades in the sport and is currently in a career year in the Camping World Truck Series, somehow makes a wild move on NASCAR’s biggest stage and actually sticks it, crosses the finish line to the shouts and cheers of peers, announcers, and fans alike. For a division suffering an identity crisis like the XFINITY Series, they needed that.
Instead, Justin Haley’s Bouchard-esque win was stripped away by a small ribbon of asphalt. What hurts even worse is that he didn’t need to go below said ribbon.
One can only imagine the dejection he must have felt after celebrating at the line only to see Kyle Larson celebrating in the grass after being told he was the winner. Larson, who is among the best actual wheelmen in the sport, happens to be an established Cup superstar with several Cup and XFINITY wins under his belt (ergo, didn’t need to be in the race where the win would ultimately add up to nothing). It just goes to show how ludicrous both the Yellow Line rule is as well as the “need” for Cup drivers in lower divisions.
Still, a rule is a rule. NASCAR has been wildly inconsistent with it over the years (from the 2003 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega when Dale Jr. passed Matt Kenseth, to the 2008 Amp Energy 500 at Talladega when Regan Smith went below the Yellow Line and was stripped of the win), but inconsistency isn’t enough to fuel a legitimate argument. Haley reacted to Elliott Sadler’s and Larson’s battle. The reaction sent him too far below when there was enough room to pass above the line. Unintentional, but it was enough to deny Haley, GMS Racing, and the NASCAR faithful who wish to see a resurrection of the XFINITY Series.
Until NASCAR abolishes the Yellow Line rule at Daytona and Talladega, there will be more instances of pure highway robbery where wins and excitement will be stripped from otherwise memorable races. Until then, the fact remains that NASCAR made the right call after Friday’s race, but to their own detriment and the detriment of a series in dire need of a shot in the arm.