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"Penalized for passing under the yellow"

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  • "Penalized for passing under the yellow"

    Watching all of the late 1980s and early 1990s 500s, and frequently (probably at least once each year) the ABC crew will comment that "(driver) has been penalized for passing under yellow" - either by USAC deducting a lap or more, or a stop-and-go in the pits. Most instances were also followed by an interview with an incredulous team manager/car owner who insists his driver didn't pass under the yellow or has no idea when or where this occurred.
    I definitely haven't heard of this (either passing under yellow or being penalized for doing so) over the past 10 years and perhaps going back even further into the early 2000s....
    What was the deal back then? Were these violations occurring because drivers didn't realize the yellow was out? Were drivers trying to gain an illegal advantage on purpose? Was USAC handing out bogus penalties? Or was there some highly technical interpretation of the rules that lead to something not obvious to the casual observer being categorized as "passing under yellow"?
    Even though electronic scoring back then wasn't what it is nowadays, I'd think it would be terribly obvious either via review of electronic scoring or by sight (by hundreds of thousands of fans in the stands or all the television cameras) that one driver passed another under a caution - but typically when watching these older broadcasts, the TV folks aren't able to come up with video of the infraction either.
    Just a curiosity

  • #2
    There's a lot of unwrap there, but there are a number of things that could be a contributing factors.

    Timing and scoring was done by manual and semi-automated/manual methods. It was difficult to keep track of such things, and it was something the observers around that track noted, not the T&S floor. They would make note of it, and sometimes things wouldn't be fully settled until later on or when they were auditing the race overnight.

    Also, nowadays upwards of 20 cars are on the lead lap at the end of the race. Any passes under yellow would be for position and would be noticed immediately by timing and scoring,
    Many of the pass under yellow infractions from the older days involved cars (usually lead lap cars) passing lapped cars. It would harder to notice that. Although it was common for cars that were running laps down to "wave cars by"...let the leaders go around them in the line of cars. Sometimes USAC observed it and did not know that the driver had waved him by. That happened to Fittipaldi in 1988. At some point in the second half, Fittpaldi was exiting the pits and Rich Volger...running 8 laps down...waved him by. USAC must not have believed Emmo, and issued him a 2-lap penalty. After the race, Volger went to the USAC office and insisted he did in fact wave Fittipaldi by and overnight USAC retracted the penalty. It was a big deal because that put Emerson back to 2nd place.

    The other way it was poorly handled was like in 1993. When Raul Boesel and Mario Andretti were exiting the pits during yellow flag pit stops, Mario's nose hit the blend line before the faster moving Boesel did in the fast lane. Apparently neither Boesel nor Mario knew who was supposed to be ahead. They lined up in the pack without much thought, and the race went back to green. It wasn't until after they went back to green that USAC informed Boesel that Mario had nipped him at the blend line....and they charged him with "passing Mario under the yellow". He was issued a stop and go penalty and was forced to play catch up all day. Nowadays, the officials monitor the pit exit blend line and fix the running order behind the pace car out on the track before they go back to green. It's nearly impossible to expect the drivers to be able to do it themselves...they have no peripheral vision. NASCAR had been doing that for years already with a video camera, and USAC was just behind the ball on that one.

    Another thing too is nowadays, the officials seem to try a lot more to fix the field running order while the race is still under yellow behind the pace car. That goes for any alleged passes under yellow. Officials just radio down and say "So-and so get behind so-and-so" rather than issues penalties. It's better for everyone involved.
    Doctorindy.com

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    • #3
      Another raw deal was Pancho Carter in 1980. As a caution began, many cars but not all darted into the pits in front of him and he had no way to know that he suddenly went from 8th or so to the lead. By turn 1 the pace car roared out and was ham-handedly waving cars around and Pancho just went with the rest, later insisting that he got a wave. The 1-lap penalty dropped him from a certain 2nd to 6th at the end. It's very possible scoring and the pace car didn't know he was leading at that instant and had to cover their backsides.
      "Thank God for the fortune to be here, to be an American."--Alan Kulwicki, 11/15/92

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      • #4
        In 1978, Steve Krisiloff found himself in the lead when the yellow came out with the leader in the pits. But Krisiloff supposedly violated the stupid Pacer light rules and was penalized a lap.

        Skip to the 39:00 mark:

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        • #5
          Do you think USAC, burned by the embarrassment of 1981, decided to really, Really, REALLY enforce passing under the yellow rules and make the call immediately instead of more next day penalties that change the result of the race?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MS View Post
            Do you think USAC, burned by the embarrassment of 1981, decided to really, Really, REALLY enforce passing under the yellow rules and make the call immediately instead of more next day penalties that change the result of the race?
            The 1981 debacle ("debacle" isn't a strong enough word) probably did serve as a wake-up call. It was completely unacceptable from that point on to take care of penalties after the race. There was a new sense of obligation to impose penalties as the race was going on.

            The race was beginning to get too fast for them...both literally and figuratively. They were sanctioning one Indy car race a year, it stands to reason they weren't as 'sharp' to the complexities and situations that arise during a fast-moving race...as say, NASCAR and CART who were racing every week or every other week. It wasn't a minute long lap time anymore with 1 car on the lead lap.

            In 1984, they were almost burned when the Dataspeed computer crashed before the halfway point. They had to revert to manual scoring and were saved by the fact that Mears was two laps ahead of the field...there was no question at any time who was leading. But second place...who knew.
            Even in 1986, somehow they missed Roberto Guerrero being on the lead lap until late in the night. Imagine if he'd have snuck up to front of the pack unnoticed and actually been the leader.
            Doctorindy.com

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