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NASCAR may tweak the green-white-checkered rule, and drivers ponder what it might mean

  Jeff Gordon: so just how should NASCAR try to end these races, after a late crash? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   NASCAR just held it's annual pre-season safety-update meeting with drivers here, though Jeff Gordon – who was in the middle, and triggerman, in one of Saturday's big crashes – didn't make it.
    If Gordon had been there, he says he would have some suggestions.
    NASCAR is considering tweaking it's green-white-checked two-lap shootout rules. One possible tweak: that the leader would have to take the white  that any crash-caution before the start of the official white flag 'last lap' would set up another green-white-checkered attempt.
    Since going to the green-white-checkered rule a few years ago, after extreme fan displeasure at race-ending cautions, NASCAR has only made one attempt at that two-lap 'overtime' shootout, and if the yellow comes out during those two laps, before drivers make it back to the checkered under green, the field is frozen at the point of the yellow.
   Of course that has made for some slow NASCAR yellows, like in the 2007 Kevin Harvick-Mark Martin Daytona 500 finish....and in Saturday's Shootout, when the last lap and a half was run under yellow.
    Ryan Newman:  "I think what they are talking about is one more shot at a green-white-checkered if we haven't got to the white flag yet. So instead of having one stab at it, they would give us two stabs at it. There are chances we will have a little bit more racing, a little different outcome. It would be a checkered flag finish for the fans, which ultimately is what this is all about. So I understand the perspective; I just don't know if it is going to happen, or how it will happen."
  NASCAR could test the rule in Thursday's twin 150s.
   "It's another step in the right direction," Denny Hamlin says. "The finish Saturday wasn't quite what I would have wanted."
  Gordon suggests this: "If they do a green-white-checkered, and we don't make it back around for the checkered under green, then you do a green-checkered and then call it good.
    "I'm hearing they are talking about that (tweaking the two-lap overtime rule).
    "Unfortunately my schedule didn't allow me to be at the safety meeting this morning or I would have voiced my opinion in that and said 'One green-white-checkered and one green-checkered.'
    "They could do ten green-white-checkereds, and we're still not going to make it to the checkered (under green).
    "It just needs to be a one lap: take the green and finish, after we attempt one green-white-checkered.
    "That would be my best throw at it."
    Gordon also pointed to possible "fuel mileage issues" with too many overtime laps. "We're all cutting it real close anyway (on fuel)," Gordon says.
    "And all you're going to do is set yourself up for another wreck -- You give us two laps out there under green and we're going to find a way to wreck.
    "It's amazing what happens from the time you take the green (on a restart) to the middle of the back straightaway. There is a whole lot of jockeying that goes on.
     "Now, maybe the guy running seventh or something can't win it. And maybe, if he's lucky, could -- if there was one extra lap.
    "But I'm only talking about after one attempt at a green-white-checkered -- after you do one attempt at a green-white-checkered and you have a caution, there is no reason to go do another one and another one and another one.
     "That's not going to happen.
     "What's going to happen is it's going to be two attempts...if rumors I'm hearing are true."
      What that might have meant Saturday night is not clear. Well, first NASCAR could afford to throw the caution more quickly in a crash situation like that. Which means the tweak could be a safety 'plus.'
   Biffle has had a word or two with Gordon after Saturday's crash, but just what they said isn't clear. "He was thanking me for pushing him,' Gordon said with a laugh.
      What Gordon's thinking on that overtime run?   
     "I was a little concerned," Gordon said. "I was pretty aggressive down that back straight. We all were in the closing laps.
    "I felt bad I spun him out. But I don't know if he had a tire going down, or if it was just older tires (on Biffle's car) versus the new tires (Gordon had).
    "But I promise you one thing -- I was giving him one heck of a push...and it was sort of one of those pushes where 'This is either going to get us to the front, or it's going to cause a wreck.' And it was the latter."
    Overall during the Shootout Gordon said the action wasn't excessively brutal: "I didn't think that it was over-the-top.
    "It's pretty typical here in the closing laps, when the intensity starts to really crank up, the bump-drafting starts to get more intense.
    "And it's 'bump-pushing' here, because you can't do it in the corners; you can only do it on the straights.
     "We saw a lot of that happening as the laps wound down. And you'll see more of that -- not so much on Thursday (in the twin 150s), but on Sunday absolutely. It's the Daytona 500."
    And maybe – in the best Earnhardt tradition – part of the gamesmanship going on here right now during practice and racing is an element of intimidation.
    Is that what Gordon is trying to put out there to his rivals?
    "There are some guys out there who know exactly what happens when they run into the back of somebody in the corners, but they're willing to take the risk to try to win the Daytona 500," Gordon says.
   "You certainly don't mind moving a guy. And sometimes you have to do that, especially if it's for the win.
     "If it's for 15th place, it doesn't make any sense. But if it's for the win, I think pretty much any guy out there would do that."


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  Denny Hamlin (11) is one of the most aggressive drivers in the sport.... but Jeff Gordon is making his game plans too... (Photo: Toyota Motorsports

At some point NASCAR is going

At some point NASCAR is going to have to give up this ridiculous field-freeze angle and let them race back to the stripe - this is how the 500 was decided in 2007, how the Firecracker 250 won by Mike Wallace after Michael Waltrip and Junior wrecked on the last lap was decided, it is how the 2006 Autumn 500 won by Brian Vickers should have been decided - it is how the Shootout should have been decided.

i have never been a fan of

i have never been a fan of 'freezing' the field; i'd rather they go back to the previous lap. nascar has all this high-tech sensor stuff, but i've never seen it....and i've been covering this sport since, uh, maybe like 1972 or so, and i've seen a lot of. and i'm just an old country boy -- show me. like that deal with JPM at Indy. Maybe so, maybe not. Just show me.
but racing back to the stripe -- sorry, i've got to agree with bobby allison on this, that it's too dangerous. heck these guys -- as we've seen the last few days -- have a hard time just figuring out how to blend in at speed when coming out of the pits.
but this is not an academic topic: we need to get ahead of the curve on this, because nascar is obviously looking to change things, and i sense they want some input.
give me some other options to consider.

Don't agree it was too

Don't agree it was too dangerous. Sorry Mike, but I can't agree with the argument that racing to the stripe was too dangerous - when it was there the drivers for the most part weren't stupid, and it always sorted the field out better. If there was a situation where racing to the stripe did pose problems NASCAR usually stepped in to control it, such as at Pocono in 1989 - Bobby Hillin crashed off Three, the field raced to the stripe but were told to slow it down, then after that NASCAR talked to Waddell Wilson (Geoff Bodine's CC) and others and told them to back it off sooner the next time, they did.

The controversy really dates to the infamous 1983 wreck (linked here) involving Darrell Waltrip. But here as in the above-mentioned incident it was a case of attacking those specific individuals responsible (here it was Lake Speed) rather than changing the rule that worked for the better.

Sorry Mike, I have to go with racing to the stripe here. Reverting to the last completed lap makes the same mistake as freezing the field - it penalizes the field on the lap being run when the yellow comes out. I've been going to Stafford Motor Speedway for 15-plus years and I've lost track of how many features saw the wrong winner because they had a yellow as someone was taking the lead and they reverted to the last completed lap.

I still favor racing to the stripe. They can police it to take danger out of it.

I just don't know...this is

I just don't know...this is ONE subject I feel like needs to entirely be the drivers decision. NASCAR listened to them on the "yellow line rule"..and because of the devastating effects multiple GWC's can have at the end of a race....it's a hard decision. I don't like it when a race ends like it did Saturday night..BUT..looking at how much carnage was all over the track..the time it would take to clean it...the mindsets of the drivers waiting to restart...the expense of the cars...the drivers safety...the fuel limits..I don't know if multiple GWC's are something that should be determined based on "entertainment factor" as opposed to driver safety. I know NASCAR is trying to get back to basics..and in the past it was "wreckers or checkers"...but sometimes the past is not the safest way to go. My vote is to let the drivers determine the rule..and if approved maybe NOT start it at Daytona.

Sorry Jeff; you're supposed

Sorry Jeff; you're supposed to be some of the best drivers in the world. It is not a foregone conclusion that "we're going to find a way to wreck".

Drivers used to act sensibly and not take stupid risks. Then Earnhardt came along and made it OK to boot people out of the way instead of waiting for the driver ahead to make a mistake.

Indycars have no problem running wheel to wheel without crashing. They've had many side-by-side finishes. NASCAR drivers don't have to wreck, they just do it because they can.

If there's a crash within 10 laps of the finish, they should just throw the yellow. Keep doing that until you've had 10 green flag laps to the checker. Let all the jerks have crash themselves out. If you're low on gas, you'll have to pit on the yellow.

How about when they have a

How about when they have a caution then a green white checkers,they just let the top 10 race back to the line and let the rest pull of pit road. After all isnt the whole reason for the G/W/C to have an actual WINNER and not to see who gets 20th? Just saying....

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