If a picture is worth 1000 words, than what does this photo from Sunday's race at Talladega say? Is Jimmie or isn't Jimmie passing Mark Martin with his left wheels bellow the yellow line?
I actually had the privilege of being at the race in Talladega this weekend and a very interesting debate went on as members of the media compared their own photos and video of the "incident" after the race. NASCAR Senior Director of Competition Communications Kerry Tharp even got in on the discussion. Most agreed it was close and hard to tell 100% because of the angle and the shadows being cast at that time of day.
It is true, it's not as blatant as the infamous 2008 pass by Regan Smith that rekindled the pass bellow the line debate. But that is what makes this rule so hard for me to stomach. It is as it's very core, a judgement call. Was the driver forced? Were his wheels all the way behind the line? Is it a 5 time champ or an unknown rookie? Okay I added that last question, but since the rule is at best subjective, who is to say that that doesn't play at least some role in calling or not calling a violation.
I actually think a no call is the right call. But I also believe that Smith won that 2008 race. Like this one, I saw it with my own eyes. I saw Tony Stewart try to block him and force him down. I saw the result of the rule one year later as Carl Edwards did the same to Brad Keselowski and BK sent Carl into the catch fence.
I understand the the importance of the yellow line rule, but I also think that allowing cars to pass bellow the line as the come to get the checkered flag provides for some pretty good racing. At least that's what this photo says to me. I mean this was the closest finish in NASCAR history right?