That Double Yellow Line ~ It Ain’t Going Away
Talladega weekend racing is over. Two races. I was on the road but from everything I’ve heard they must have been some doozies.
Richard Childress pacing the Cup field in Dale Earnhardt’s #3 that he won his final race here in 2000. Rain and red flags. Racing resuming with cars crashing and flying and more red flags. Ryan Blaney winning to advance to the Round of Eight by a mere .007 seconds. Not to be outdone, Johnny Sauter drove his truck to cross the finish line first only to finish 14th, having the win taken away after being penalized for going below the yellow line to block the charge of a fellow competitor.
There was a lot to talk about afterwards. The races of course. Grant Lynch’s unveiling of the new fan opportunities at the “Talladega Garage Experience” and “Big Bill’s” social club got major positive marks. Of course you have the Playoff talk and speculation on who the next four to be eliminated from the Playoffs will be. But leading the discussions this week and getting the most attention on the airwaves is that Double Yellow Line that factored into that weekend’s racing.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on it. In this world of instant communication, everyone who has a means to get their opinion out seems to be doing so. The last few days leading up to Kansas City have been full of discussion on its fate.
Some say do away with it. Others say keep it. There seems to be a healthy divide over the subject.
The fans who want it gone say that it’s unnecessary. The drivers are going to wreck anyway, whether the line is there or not. It has done nothing to prevent the “Big One” and more than one has presented exhibits where it has actually created what it was intended to prevent – the “Big One.”
Fans go on to say that the rules surrounding it are not consistently enforced by the Sanctioning Body. A win shouldn’t come down to a discretionary call by the Sanctioning Body. When they have to do it, it creates “bad optics” and puts the entire sport in a bad position.
Their bottom line is if it’s not preventing what it was designed to prevent and if it can’t be consistently enforced, then take it up and let them have at it. It’s not needed. It’s only creating more problems than its solving. Let the drivers race where they want and police themselves.
The other side believes it is necessary and still serves a valuable purpose. It defines the inside boundary of the racing surface. It does so in a much safer manner than other methods to do so such as a wall or grass.
From the Double Yellow Line to outside SAFER Barrier is where the Sanctioning Body wants racing to take place. It’s there that provides the safest surface to conduct racing at the incredible speeds the cars run here. Within these boundaries, drivers find the smoothest surface and minimal surface transitions to disrupt a car’s balance and create wrecks. Within this area, turned cars have a better chance to keep air from getting under the car which in turn reduces their chances of going airborne (not eliminate, but minimize).
The Double Yellow Line with a lane’s width of pavement below “out of bounds” provides a “cushion”, some flexibility or wriggle room for drivers in the event errors are made while running on the razor’s edge at the tremendous speeds. It gives the drivers an escape route when other drivers make a mistake while they are running on the ragged edge. With the tight packs they run in today, mistakes will be made and every little bit helps.
Eliminate the artificial boundary of the Double Yellow Line and drivers will do what drivers do to get any competitive edge-take it to the limit and then some. If they can and it’s to their advantage you will see them move the groove down one lane and race on the lane that is currently out of bounds. The “cushion” disappears and any room to deal with errors is gone.
Take Pocono. Drivers being drivers is a reason they had to put rumble strips inside the turns there after drivers figured out the quickest way around that track included running inside tires on the infield grass. That line would kick grass and debris on the track, creating issues. It was only when a deterrent was installed that the practice stopped.
In the big scheme of things the Double Yellow Line is a fairly recent addition to the Superspeedways. NASCAR raced for years without it. Just ask Mike Skinner if drivers always stayed above where it is now and how does it work out when all the available track surface and then some is used. And as far as drivers policing themselves... it sounds good but in reality if they bring enough sponsorship money to the table how much policing can go on?
Remove it? Keep it? There are good reasons for each decision. Its future makes for good debate. Thankfully, others get to make that decision.
For almost two decades now the Double Yellow Line acted as the inside fence on the Superspeedways where an inside fence is needed but it is impossible or impractical to have one in the usual or physical sense.
When it comes to removing fences (or in this case, the Double Yellow Line) I think NASCAR would be wise to consider the advice of philosopher G. K. Chesterton who spoke directly to the subject of fence removal when he said,
“Whenever you remove any fence, always pause long enough to ask why it was put there in the first place.”
I contend that if during this pause they find the original reason(s) for the Double Yellow Line included safety, be it fan safety or driver safety, that Double Yellow Line, it ain’t going away.
If it’s removed and something bad happens, someone gets hurt and it’s argued that it could have been prevented if the Double Yellow Line was in place, the outcome could be disastrous.
The reality is the fear of litigation and potential liability greatly outweighs whatever the fans, drivers, owners or Dale Jr. may want. As long as lawyers, litigation or Insurance companies exist or until the cars are slowed down, the tracks reconfigured, or something is done to break up the pack racing it has to stay.
Till then, That Double Yellow Line... It Ain’t Going Away.