Let Them Race: Time For NASCAR To Complete All Cup Series Events Under Green

(The article below is a RaceDayCT column – The views expressed in this column are solely the opinion of the writer)

Is it over? 

That was certainly the question being asked by millions of people who were tuned in to watch the conclusion of the Daytona 500 on Monday evening. 

And it wasn’t just fans asking that question. One could tell from the restrained tone of the broadcasters calling the event that they weren’t even sure exactly what was happening. 

William Byron won his first Daytona 500 Monday, taking the checkered flag with the race under caution. 

As the leaders came to the white flag, Byron was out front with Ross Chastain diving to his inside and Austin Cindric trying to get inside of Chastain. Contact between Chastain and Cindric sent the two cars spinning toward the infield. As Byron neared the start/finish line, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman got his outside. The pair crossed the start/finish line – with the race still under green – with Byron leading Bowman to his outside. Byron and Bowman seemed to be running in lockstep when the caution flew just after the completion of lap 199. 

In the Fox Sports TV booth announcer Clint Bowyer asked: “Did they complete that lap?” His broadcast partner Mike Joy said: “Did the leader get the white flag?” Also in the broadcast booth, Kevin Harvick said: “It’s going to be close.”

NASCAR rules state that during a Cup Series event, once the leader takes the white flag, the next flag essentially ends the competition. That means if a yellow comes out 50 feet after the leader has taken the white flag or two miles after taking the white flag the running order is frozen and that running order is deemed to be the final result. 

It’s a rule for safety. As much as the sanctioning body would certainly like to see the final lap run fully under green, you can’t have the possibility of those drivers competing for the win on the final lap encountering other cars that are stopped or slowed on the track for what brought out the caution. 

The problem is that it’s a rule that regularly steals away the final lap of competition from fans and also creates confusion in may cases like what was seen Monday evening. 

Imagine the NFL communications department being forced to scurry to its social media channels in the moments following the Super Bowl to explain why the Kansas City Chiefs won the game. That’s exactly what NASCAR did in the moments following the Daytona 500. If the people who oversee and operate the sport feel the need to go on social media to explain to the fans that follow them how someone just won the biggest race of the season maybe it’s time to rethink the rules for how races end.

For decades NASCAR always ended races at the announced distance of the event. Back then, if a caution flew on lap 297 of a 300-lap Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and three laps were run under caution the race was over. 

In 2004 what has become known as “NASCAR Overtime” was introduced. It meant that the races would end under green-white-checkered rules. If caution flew on lap 297 of a 300-lap race then there would be another restart to decide the finish even if that restart came after 300 laps had been completed. That restart would involve two laps of racing with the cars taking a green flag to restart the race, a white flag to indicate the last lap and a checkered flag to end the race. That overtime rules have been tweaked since their introduction but the basics are pretty simple. NASCAR will make unlimited attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, but if the white flag is shown to the leader, the race is deemed concluded. 

The evolution of NASCAR Overtime needs to take one more step though. Elimination of the white flag conclusion portion of the rule. 

NASCAR needs to have green flag finishes for every Cup Series event. If a caution flies after the white flag has shown, then reset the field and do another green-white-checkered. And keep doing them until the race ends under green. It’s actually what most short tracks do in this country. 

Listening to some NASCAR pundits this morning on NASCAR Radio on Sirius/XM the sentiment against a rule such as that was basically that you could end up having restart after restart after restart. As was said a few times in jest this morning, they might still be trying to finish the Daytona 500. 

So what? Keep trying. 

One of the other opinions offered this morning on the Sirius/XM broadcast was essentially saying how the race ending didn’t take away from how great the race was so fans should be satisfied. It’s a worthy sentiment, it was a very dramatic event, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the way the race ended hurt everything. The goal of all sports ultimately is winning. It doesn’t matter if it was three hours of the best race ever seen in the history of the sport, if the part where the winner was decided was confusing and downright underwhelming, that’s not fixed by how good the rest of the show was.

If you’re a casual sports fan who doesn’t regularly watch NASCAR events and you watched the end of the Daytona 500 Monday, it’s probably unlikely you’re going to be making plans to make sure to watch the next NASCAR Cup Series race. That non-NASCAR fan who watched the Daytona 500 and was left confused and asking questions about the weirdly anticlimactic conclusion of the event is probably actually telling people today that they watched the Daytona 500 but they’re not quite sure what happened at the end of the race or why the winner was actually the winner. 

And that’s not a good thing for the sport. Sports evolve and in this moment NASCAR needs to evolve for the betterment and growth of the sport. Make every Cup Series race end under green flag conditions. 

RaceDayCT Poll: Should NASCAR Change The Rules To Make All Cup Series Races End Under Green


  1. Wrong. OT rules are fine as they are. Hell, I would prefer that we go back to ending the race at the stated distance but that’s just me. If it ends under yellow, it ends under yellow. Since they don’t race back to the yellow, there may be the occasional confusing ending like we had last night where the yellow comes out just after the leader gets the white flag. But you know what, sometimes that happens. can’t please everyone 100% of the time.

  2. ya mean line em up and see how many more cars we can wreck?

  3. I think they may have done a green white checkered, had it not been for the marathon weekend of time, rain, rescheduling, and the fact that they had an FS1 commitment at 9:00 pm for the xfinity.
    Not feeling sorry at all for Nascar, but they definitely have had a tough start to the season for the weather.
    That, and I think they had their quota of wrecked cars for the 500 by that point. I do like seeing all races end under green if possible, as a rule though. Jmo.

  4. I’m a bit perplexed by the notion that the NFL doesn’t have to go on TV the next day to explain why a given team has won. Feels like every week there’s another controversy about a ruling in the NFL that the league officials have to come out and explain away, usually unsuccessfully. NASCAR trying to force a green flag ending for every race will just lead to more embarrassing moments like the 2023 truck finale, especially at Daytona where the drivers keep showing us they can’t run two clean green flag laps to end a race.

  5. I was glad it was over.

  6. For fans of Mr. Courchesne as I am that theme of sport being about winning is one that’s been echoed in these pages at regular intervals. It make me uncomfortable with regard to amateur sports. Local racing is amateur and a recreation choice for those that participate. Participation may not include winning per se for any number of reasons and that’s fine.
    CUP however is the pros. They need to find a way to finish a race under green and do whatever they have to do to make that happen without it turning into a wreck fest, marathon or both. My Lord it’s not like they don’t have experience with the end of races at the super speedways and the wild things that happen at the end. Make it the Daytona 400 if it gets postponed and has to fit into a specific window cause you know the end all too frequently goes south real fast.

  7. Drunkinirishman says

    I can get behind the reasoning Mr Courchesne presents in the article. As a dedicated race fan, I did feel a bit cheated by fate at the Daytona 500 finish. Maybe the solution would be a single file restart after a set number of attempts in overtime.

  8. Yes, let’s change the overtime rules so that we can have 4 green white checker attempts and wreck the other half of the field that didn’t wreck during the scheduled rave distance. Sounds wonderful. Let’s just keep repeating that race at Indy every race.

  9. Finishing a superspeedway race is a demonstration of absurdity and insanity. The same crazy 💩 happens every time, yet all y’all think it will end up perfect on the next attempt. This a Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown every time.

    I say if a wreck happens within 5 laps of the 🏁, that’s it, the race is over. Do that a few times and see if the drivers get it.

  10. Drunkinirishman, I like your idea. Happens at short tracks all the time, if they can’t get going after 2 or 3 double-file restarts, the next one is single file.

  11. Suitcase Jake says

    What a gut punch again for Preece Fans…works all the way up to the lead …then pits as the leader…. SPEEDS on pit road entry ….. Has to come back in for drive thru penalty and loses one lap to the field…. UNREAL ….

  12. Gary Gohlke says

    I’m sure if the drivers owned the cars and had to spend all week putting them back together rather than panhandling for their sponsors, NASCAR racing would be just as thrilling.Theyre still just going too damn fast. You can’t drive for 3 hours at 175+ and not feel tired or hinder your reaction time.

  13. Al Hoekstra says

    Race to line under Green its original old school racing !!

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