The tempest of discontent that has followed Sundayâ€™s Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway was as predictable as night following day.
Hey! Regan Smith got to the finish line first. He should have won.
No! He went below the yellow line to pass. That automatically knocks him out.
Hey! Tony Stewart forced Smith down there. So Smith should have won, anyway.
No! It doesnâ€™t matter. You go below the yellow line, you get the death penalty.
And so it goes.
And so it will continue. This will happen again at Daytona or Talladega, and there will be more controversy about it. As long as NASCAR remains inconsistent in its rules enforcement and allows areas to be even slightly gray, there will be controversy.
Although NASCAR stressed that the yellow-line rule is black and white, some past decisions have fallen somewhere in between those colors.
The solution is simple. Buy a bunch of asphalt-colored paint and do away with those yellow lines at Talladega and Daytona. Let the big dogs eat.
Racing is all about risk and reward. If thereâ€™s room to race on the deep inside on the last lap at Daytona or Talladega, let those who want to take a chance by making a move there do it.
True racers are going to take advantage of every available inch of the race track, particularly on the last lap of one of the biggest races of the season and especially when that first career win is oh-so-close to being a reality. Put yourself in Regan Smithâ€™s shoes at Talladega and try to imagine that victory being an instant away. Given NASCARâ€™s history of making rules interpretations that are convenient to its causes, Smith had to go for it and hope for the best.
Stewart, too, did everything right Sunday. He blocked and blocked and blocked, and thatâ€™s what a smart driver in his position does on the final lap at Talladega. There was no clear evidence that he â€œforcedâ€ Smith below the yellow line. NASCAR says that is a judgment call anyway, so itâ€™s open to wild interpretation.
The answer, clearly, is to do away with the yellow lines. Yellow means caution. The last lap at Talladega, which remains one of stock -car racingâ€™s most exciting tracks despite the limitations of restrictor plates, should be about everything but caution. Throw caution to the wind and race away.
Another solution would be to build inside walls near the yellow lines to more concretely define the inside no-manâ€™s-land, but that isnâ€™t likely to happen, for an abundance of reasons.
Paint is cheap.
*****from Jim Modlin, courtesy of scenedaily.com*****