If you never understood NASCAR’s overtime line rule, it doesn’t matter now – For The Win
It’s safe to say NASCAR makes rule changes to improve either the safety of the drivers and teams or the quality of the sport overall. And when it ditched the difference between the start/finish line and the overtime line in an announcement Wednesday – effective immediately – that was definitely to enhance the sport for everyone.
Didn’t know you could have overtime on a race track? No worries, just know that it’s because NASCAR likes to have races end with drivers going at full speed, and late caution flags or the race stopping gets in the way of this.
Before the overtime line rule was implemented in 2016, NASCAR would have a green-white-checkered flag restart if there was a caution or stop late in the race. Drivers would have one regular green-flag lap followed by a white flag, signaling that was the last lap of the race. If any type of flag came out after the official flew the white one, the race was over, and the leader won.
Enter the overtime line rule, which Yahoo! Sports’ Nick Bromberg explains the best:
The Overtime Line rule was supposed to be simple. NASCAR had a line on the backstretch at every track. If a race went past its scheduled distance and the leader was past the line on the backstretch on the penultimate lap of the race when a caution was called, the race was over and the leader was the winner.
But, as NASCAR fans have seen multiple times this season, it doesn’t always work that way. Following a late restart, sometimes there would be an accident – which would have drawn an immediate caution flag at any other time in the race – but it seemed like sometimes NASCAR would wait until the leader crossed the overtime line to make the race official before flying the caution.
If they threw a caution flag immediately and before the race leader crossed the overtime line, there would be another restart and new opportunity for someone to take the lead. Questionable overtime line situations led some people to believe NASCAR was trying to pick the winner.
It’s absurd and strangely complicated for something that should be simple. But the good news is if you never understood it in the first place, you don’t have to now. NASCAR is back to doing things the old way – the overtime line and the start/finish line are now the same – starting with the I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at Watkins Glen International on Sunday.
If the leader is on the second-to-last lap and a caution comes out, the race will be restarted with a green-white-checkered finish. Drivers will have to complete one full lap under green conditions and get back to the start/finish line for the race to be official if there’s another caution. If the leader is on the final lap when the caution comes, the race is over.
At least for now.