The latest NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race ended in controversy at Talladega with NASCAR officials defending the yellow line rule at the centre of the debate.
Denny Hamlin survived a post-race investigation to clinch the victory, but his triumph was initially under threat for multiple reasons.
Hamlin’s win was put into question as he went completely below the yellow line through Turn 4 when he drew level with the race leaders as he re-entered the track. However, NASCAR did not call a penalty as they believed Hamlin was forced onto the apron to avoid an incident.
But officials did penalise second-place finisher Matt DiBenedetto, who forced William Byron below the yellow line as he attempted to a block his run on the final lap.
NASCAR also penalised Chase Elliott for a similar violation, but later rescinded the penalty and instead penalised Chris Buescher, who lost his sixth place.
DiBenedetto officially placed 21st and Buescher 22nd – both dropping to the rear of the cars that finished on the lead lap.
NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller explained the ruling on Hamlin and DiBenedetto as “clear-cut” calls for the officials in a hectic race that had a record 13 cautions and went into triple overtime.
“It was pretty clear cut. The #21 (DiBenedetto) hung a left, drove those guys down below the line,” Miller said. “We called that twice on the #22 car (Joey Logano) during the race, so nothing different there.
“On the #24 (Byron) and the #11 (Hamlin) being down there, I mean, in our judgment was they were down there to avoid a wreck. I think all of it was, from our vantage point, I think fairly clear cut.”
Miller also asserted that NASCAR will not consider eliminating the yellow line rule.
“There would probably be even more wrecks [without the rule]. We certainly don’t need more wrecks than what we saw today. Probably not,” he said.
“Outside of putting a wall there, I don’t really know what more we can do.
“I do sincerely believe we need the rule. You see all the real estate that’s around here. If we started having cars running 12 wide down the back straightaway, imagine what would happen when you get to Turn 3.
“I think it’s important that we continue to have a rule. You get out there in the heat of battle, things happen. It’s hard when there’s all that real estate down there, but you just can’t do it.
“I don’t think that we can eliminate it. I think it would be a mess.”