NASCAR: Did Nashville finish highlight the need for a rule change?

After the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway needed a record five overtime restarts, some feel that the race took too long to conclude.
Ally 400, Nashville Superspeedway, NASCAR
Ally 400, Nashville Superspeedway, NASCAR / James Gilbert/GettyImages

No professional motorsport has drivers like NASCAR, who can slip and slide big heavy cars around extremely fast race tracks better than anyone else. Likewise, no other racing series has as many side by side battles, or as many overtakes per race, or even per lap, than NASCAR. It's a unique product, and that's what makes it so special.

Perhaps more than any other motorsport in the world, NASCAR is known for its chaotic, high-contact, close-quarters nature, and its drive for pure entertainment. Primarily, though, the sport's willingness to go out of its way to provide said entertainment is what it's most known for in the motorsport community.

In a lot of ways, this can be seen as a good thing. There are many other sports around the world that are trying to adapt to the modern-day fan's wants and needs, spicing things up to retain viewership when things may get dull while grabbing more eyes at the same time.

Whether it be the introduction of the playoffs, stages, or something else, NASCAR has made no shortage of attempts at this strategy. It's undeniable that they have made a difference, for better or worse, and have increased the entertainment value of the sport, with respect to equality and parity with different winners, as well as pure drama.

However, it can also be argued that many of these changes have come at the cost of fairness, purity, legitimacy, and in its absolute worst cases, even entertainment itself. Sometimes, the push for excitement gets so overdone that it causes confusion, boredom, and even frustration.

NASCAR's overtime rules have come under fire after the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway, and questions have been raised about the procedures.

An overtime restart at the end of a race is far from uncommon. For the most part, overtime serves its purpose brilliantly by almost guaranteeing a green flag finish to every race, which is what every fan wants to see. Most would agree it's better than having a crash with three laps left and seeing the winner coast across the line behind a safety car like the old days.

When the "green white checkered" procedure was implemented in the 2004 Brickyard 400, it initially allowed the field to have three attempts to get back to the white flag without having another caution. If, after three additional caution periods, the field still couldn't reach the white flag, then the race would end under yellow.

Then, after 2016's failed "overtime line" procedure was implemented and quickly squashed in 2017, today's system was implemented. The drivers try to make it back around to the white flag before a caution, just like the original iteration, only this time, there are unlimited attempts to finish the race under green.

While it is great to know that, barring a true last lap caution, cars will cross the finish line at full speed, this past weekend's race at Nashville exposed the system's biggest flaw: both the chaos, and the race, sometimes never end.

The Ally 400 had a NASCAR-record five overtime attempts, with caution period after caution period unfolding for what felt like hours, before race leader Joey Logano finally reached the white flag and went on to take the checkered, 31 laps after the originally scheduled race distance was reached.

Entertainment is great, and it must be at the forefront for any sport to have success, but eventually, it can get to a point where it's just silly and perhaps even meaningless. Most can agree that five attempts to run just two consecutive green flag laps to end a race is too much to sit through, especially if you're not seriously invested in it.

It causes a lot of delays and sometimes even confusion. In extreme cases, it can completely alter someone's race, or even their season. Sure, it's a rare occurrence, but as seen on Sunday, it's all very possible, and it's ugly when it happens.

What can NASCAR do to prevent lengthy overtime periods in future races?

Unfortunately, NASCAR is not like other sports that have overtime. Sports such as hockey, basketball, and baseball all have extra frames, and there is still action going on pretty much every second.

In NASCAR overtime, however, there may be 10 or 15 seconds of action, before a caution slows the field down, allowing nothing to happen for another five or so minutes. That's not to say it's the wrong procedure, but it demonstrates the effect of an ever-extending race.

NASCAR's options are few and far between. An easy fix could be to reimplement the original format of having three attempts to finish the race before finally ending it under yellow, but then a good portion of the fanbase would be miffed if a race doesn't end under racing conditions. The "overtime line" rule also cannot come back, as it was simply too confusing.

NASCAR could go back to how it was from the sport's inception until 2004, when races simply finished once the scheduled distance was completed, caution flag or not. They could even red flag the race if there is a wreck toward the end to ensure another restart. But, much like the first option, that approach would eliminate the attempt to have a grandstand finish.

A new idea could be for NASCAR to have a rule where the on-track action can't exceed a certain time, much like Formula 1's two-hour race time limit in a four-hour window. This would ensure that races don't needlessly drag on.

But once again, should timing not work out, that change would have the potential to eliminate a green flag finish as well, which defeats the whole entertainment purpose of what NASCAR has been trying to achieve.

Ultimately, the solution lies solely in the hands of the drivers.

With the exception of a debris caution, or a freak incident like a fan climbing the fence, the majority of caution periods are caused by the actions of the drivers and teams on the race track.

The ridiculous five cautions at the end of the Nashville race were all because of the drivers not being able to control themselves and their aggression. When there are two laps to go and you're running 20th, yet 10th place is right in front of you, you can't be blamed for pushing the limits to get the best result for your team, but you can be blamed for how you go about doing it.

These are the self-proclaimed "best race car drivers" on the planet, and even if you think they're not, they're still miles better than 99.9% of the world's population. It's their job to show that they are the best, and that when the stakes are at their highest, they can beat everyone else fair and square without crashing into each other and objectively looking like amateurs.

If the drivers can keep things clean, excessive amounts of overtime attempts wouldn't be needed, meaning that NASCAR would, in turn, not need to make any rule changes.

Next. NASCAR: Small Nashville incident could have major long-term ramifications. NASCAR: Small Nashville incident could have major long-term ramifications. dark

Most importantly, though, almost every event would see the best of the best rise to the top, ensuring that the fans almost always get a worthy, deserving winner without needless chaos interfering.