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What Can NASCAR Do About the Rule that Screwed Kevin Harvick on Sunday?

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Joshua Lipowski

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On Sunday night at Darlington, Kevin Harvick was bit by an untimely caution that happened as he was trying to get to pit road. Pit road closed right before Harvick got to the commitment line, and Harvick was penalized for pitting while pit road was closed. As a result, Harvick was penalized, and he was relegated to only a 19th-place finish.

This penalty left many NASCAR fans with a sour taste in their mouth. With that in mind, is there something that NASCAR can do to prevent moments like this from happening again?

Potential Solutions

Dale Earnhardt Jr. recently discussed the issue on the Dale Jr. Download, and he tried to pout together a good solution for the scenario. As he points out, the issue is that Harvick was unable to de-commit from pit road when the caution came out, but, he was not yet committed to pit road officially because of the line being where it was. Earnhardt Jr. also points out that Harvick was not egregiously breaking the rules or trying to gain an unfair advantage, the caution just came out at a bad time.

As a result, Earnhardt Jr. proposed a rule where essentially, the commitment line is moved back to the edge of the orange box. If you run over that orange box, it is a penalty under normal conditions, and being unable to not run over the box despite not crossing the commitment line puts Harvick in an impossible situation.

There may be some merit to getting rid of the orange box altogether to allow drivers a bit more space to de-commit from pit road before they hit the yellow line. When pit road closes so suddenly, drivers need to have enough time to de-commit from pit road and not serve a penalty.

Some may also suggest moving the commitment line back or setting up a second line on the track where a driver “commits” to pit road, but they do not need to get to pit road speed until they hit the pit road speed line at the start of pit road. Pit exit works in a similar way as the timing line that determines the order under a caution flag is a different line from the yellow pit road speed line at the end of pit road. However, there are some pretty major issues that need to be considered with these solutions.

Issues to Consider

Kevin Harvick was a victim of circumstance on Sunday night. The caution came out at just the wrong time where he was unable to get out of going to pit road.

Because of the rules involving pit road speed, there has to be a commitment line to pit road. NASCAR has to check pit road speed somehow, and it has to start somewhere. If NASCAR were to move the commitment line back say 100 feet, then the same issue would happen if that caution was thrown just a couple of seconds earlier.

If you move the commitment line to where it is equal to the width of the commitment box, a car can still have a situation where it is too close to the line to get out of the way. Under the current rules set, it is hard to find an exact solution to counteract the scenario that was found on Sunday night. The same scenario could happen, but it just happens on a different part of the race track.

It is possible that drivers may need to just accept that is the risk run when you decide to pit under green. You run the risk of a caution coming out at either the perfect time or the exact wrong time. That very well may be the best solution to the issue.

Kevin Harvick was caught up in a bad situation on Sunday night. Unfortunately, it is hard to see a rule being put in place that would not totally mitigate the risk of something like that happening.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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