If you have attended very many dirt track races you have probably seen instances in which a driver has completed a pass for position only to have a caution flag wave before the lap has been scored as official. In most situations such as this, the field is re-set for the ensuing restart based on how the cars were running on the last lap to have been scored before the yellow flag. As a result, the move of the passing driver is negated and the driver who was just passed is reinstated in his previous position.
But when is a lap actually official?
Each track or series may have their own variation. I have seen situations such as this in which the lap was counted simply if the leader had crossed the finish line before the caution was called. Others might say that the top-3 runners must have crossed the line before the lap will be posted on the scoreboard. Still others may require half of the field or half of the lead lap cars to pass by the flagman’s stand before the circuit becomes an official one.
In a recent poll, I asked Twitter followers to weigh in with their thoughts.
I asked the following question: When a caution flag comes out at a dirt race the current lap should be scored as official if ___ has crossed the start/finish line.
Response choices were as follows: A. the leader; B. the top-3; C. half the lead lap cars; D. all the lead lap cars.
By a pretty significant margin the answer choice of the leader won out. That option garnered 62% of the 262 votes cast in the highly unscientific poll. A total of 18% chose all the lead lap cars, 14% said the top-3, and 6% opted for half the lead lap cars.
Let me state here that I am not writing this piece to instruct tracks or series what to do in these situations because I don’t think there is an easy answer here. Further, no matter what option is used, some driver or fan is going to complain if the call didn’t go the way they wanted.
I simply ran the poll out of curiosity because I have heard fans complain about such rulings and wondered what people thought the right answer ought to be. I personally don’t know what the right answer is here and am willing to accept whatever officials deem to be best. However, I don’t have anything invested in the outcome of races so it’s easy for me to not have an opinion.
I guess the best answer is for whatever of the above choices to be used on a given night is, officials must make sure it is known ahead of time so that as many post-race disputes as possible can be avoided.
It’s just the nature of sports and life that we all want things to work out in our favor so we’re all bound to be biased anytime a judgement call has to be made. Racing is certainly no different.