Sunday, September 21, 2003

New caution rule has drivers' full support

Yellow-flag racing given the red light

The Associated Press

DOVER, Del. - The mad dash back to the flagstand under caution is just a NASCAR memory after more than a half-century, and Rusty Wallace is ecstatic about that.

NASCAR put into effect this weekend the no-passing rule for its top three series. The Winston Cup cars will use it for the first time today in the MBNA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

"I had hoped for a long time they were going to do this, and they've finally done it," said Wallace, the 1989 series champion. "Sometimes, it's a calculated train wreck going on."

The new rule was adopted Thursday, four days after Dale Jarrett's wrecked Ford sat precariously in the middle of the track as other cars raced by to hold or gain positions at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson lauded NASCAR for the change.

"It's nice to see the steps taken to ensure safety on the track," Johnson said. "I think we were all scared for DJ last week."

Winston Cup director John Darby said NASCAR had been considering the no-pass rule for more than a year.

"The situation last week a New Hampshire was probably one of the largest reasons we knew we had to react," he said.

Now, with the wave of the yellow flag, drivers must slow immediately and line up single-file behind the leader. Those who improve their positions will, as a minimum penalty, be sent to the end of the longest line on a double-file restart.

NASCAR ruled that the highest-scored car not on the lead lap automatically will be put there before green-flag racing resumes.

"For 53 or 54 years of competition in Winston Cup racing, one of the elements they found useful was the ability to gain a lap back once the caution was displayed," Darby said.

With yellow-flag racing now outlawed, a competitor who might be fast enough to get the lap back but would be denied the opportunity under the new rule will be rewarded. The rule includes cars that are down multiple laps.

NASCAR also modified the pit-road procedure, this after Jeff Gordon's car spun and hit three members of teammate Johnson's crew last week. Now, all cars must enter pit road in single file and passing will be permitted only on the right.

Violations under caution will result in placement at the end of the longest line. Under green, the penalty would be an additional pass through under pit-road speed.

NASCAR today

Race: MBNA American 400, Dover, Del.

Time/TV: 1 p.m./Ch. 5, 22.

Track: Dover Downs International Speedway (oval, 1 mile, 24 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 400 miles, 400 laps.

Fast facts: Tony Stewart has eight top-10 finishes in nine starts at Dover Downs ... Jeff Gordon, Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott lead active drivers with four victories each at Dover.

Next race: EA Sports 500, Sept. 28, Talladega, Ala.

Points race

1. M. Kenseth4,015
2. Earnhardt Jr. 3,611
3. K. Harvick 3,552
4. J. Johnson 3,543
5. R. Newman 3,398
6. J. Gordon 3,382
7. K. Busch 3,323
tie. B. Labonte 3,323

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