The green-white-checker finish is a rule implemented into many levels of automobile racing in the United States as a way to ensure that fans would see a green flag finish. The rule gives the field an attempt to finish the race under a green-flag condition. Under such conditions, drivers take the green with two laps to go, then get the white flag, signaling one lap to go, and then take the checkered flag, signaling the end of the race.
Depending on the series, there are various variants of the rule used by each sanctioning body.
In the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Re/Max Series, there is a two-stage version of the rule.
When the green flag is waved on the restart, there are two laps remaining in the race. If the yellow flag comes out at any time during the first lap, each subsequent restart will be a two-lap restart.
Once the white flag is waved to signal the final lap, the race will not end if a the yellow flag is waved unless the checkered flag has waved. If the yellow flag waves at any time during the final lap, the race returns to yellow immediately. Upon the ensuing restart, a green and white flag are waved to signal one lap is remaining in the race. Should a yellow flag wave before the leader crosses the finish line, the race will continue under yellow until the restart, which again is one lap.
This version, or a similar variant with no green/white rule, is used in most short tracks.
The Grand National Division (Busch East, AutoZone West) series use a rule similar to the ARCA rule with an unlimited number of attempts. In April 2005, two green-white-checkered attempts were used at Phoenix International Raceway for an AutoZone West race.
Craftsman Truck Series (1995-2004)Edit
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series adopted a green-white-checkered flag rule initially during nationally televised 200-lap exhibition races at Tucson Raceway Park in Arizona.
When the green flag is waved on the restart, there are two laps remaining in the race. If the yellow flag comes out at any time during the restart, each subsequent restart will be a two-lap restart. (From 1995 until mid-1998, racing back to the caution was prohibited in the series.)
However, if on the restart, there will be just one scheduled lap remaining, there is a green and white flag restart for the lap. That rule was implemented a few times.
In the middle of the 1998 season, however, a rule change by NASCAR affected the rule; if the yellow flag comes out during the final lap of the race, the trucks would race to the finish. (In the middle of the 1998 season, as NASCAR eliminated the two-segment races, NASCAR permitted the trucks to race to the caution.) That rule was eliminated in September 2003 as a result of the ban on racing back to the caution.
In a July 2004 race at Gateway International Raceway, multiple green-white-checkered restarts resulted in a 160-lap race going 14 additional laps. After that race, the rule was changed to standardise the rule with NASCAR's other national series, which also adopted the rule.
National Series (July 25, 2004-present)Edit
In the late 1990's, NASCAR's other two national series, Nextel Cup and Busch Series, had set a loose precident that allowed for a red flag to be displayed during a late-race caution flag. At the time, races on the other two national circuits were prohibited from being extended beyond the advertised distance. The action would temporarily halt the race, allowing safety crews to clear the track, and allow for a full restart, without the field having burned up the remaining laps under yellow. Initially, the rule was used only on short tracks, but eventually spread to all races. The implementation, however, was widely inconsistent, and inevitably would lead to controversey.
At the 2002 Pepsi 400, a late race caution came out, and participants and spectators expected a red flag. NASCAR chose not to halt the race, citing too few laps remaining, and fans plummeted the circuit with cans and other debris as it finished under yellow. The decision not to go back to green was based on two similar situations at restrictor plate tracks. In the 1993 Winston 500, the field went back to green with two laps to go. Through the dogleg towards the finish line, the tightly-bunched field led to a violent crash by Rusty Wallace, who was hospitalized. In the 1997 Pepsi 400, a restart with one lap to go caused a multi-car crash, which injured Mark Martin.
For 2003 and 2004, the red flag rules were clarified somewhat to standardise the use, with a specific lap, usually five laps remaining, being the lap designated as the "last red flag lap". Television would mention such a lap during the race specifics on broadcasts. In late 2003, NASCAR, in an unrelated move, added the Beneficiary Rule and prohibited drivers from racing back to the start/finish line when yellow flags were displayed. The field was frozen at the onset of the yellow. The unforeseen combination of the two new rules created unexpected problems.
A controversial finish to the 2004 Nextel Cup Aaron's 499 occurred as Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were racing for the lead with five laps remaining. The field was working Lap 184 of 188, beyond the point of when a red flag could halt the race (the last red flag lap was 184). As Earnhardt, Jr. was passing Gordon for the lead, Brian Vickers spun in turn three. When the caution was displayed, freezing the field, it was determined that Gordon's car was just ahead of Earnhardt's, and Gordon was scored as the leader, and thus, the winner. On the final lap, some angry fans again threw debris (seat cushions, alcoholic beverage bottles) on the track at Gordon, which angered Fox commentators Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond.
In the wake of the controversies, in mid-July 2004, all three touring series (Nextel Cup, Busch Series, Craftsman Truck Series) adopted a new, revised green-white-checkered rule. Under the revised format:
- If a late-race caution pushed the race beyond the advertised distance, there would be one attempt to finish the race under green flag conditions
- When it was determined that the track was clear for racing, the field would go green for two laps. The first time past the starter's stand, the green flag would be displayed. The second time around, the white would be displayed (signaling the final lap), and the third time around, the checkered flag (signaling the finish) would be displayed.
- If the caution flag comes out at any time during the green-white-checkered finish, the field would immediately be frozen, and the race would be over. Video evidence would be used in addition to scoring loops to determine the official order of finish.
- If under regular racing conditions (non green-white-checkered finish), the white flag was displayed, the race was no longer allowed to go to a green-white-checkered finish. If a yellow came out on the white flag lap, the field would be frozen, the race would be over, and the scoring would be official as the cars crossed the finish line.
- The rule does not apply if the race was halted due to rain.
- Although the race would be extended beyond its advertised distance, competitors were not allowed to pit for fuel without losing positions. Teams would be responsible for considering the extended distance in their fuel strategies.
When the new rule was first used on July 31, 2004, at Michigan International Speedway for the Craftsman Truck Series, the race ended under caution as the caution was waved during the final lap, under the new rule.
The first time the green-white-checkered finish was used in Nextel Cup was on August 8, 2004 at the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 160-lap event was extended to 161 laps after Brian Vickers crashed on lap 158. However, because Ricky Rudd crashed on lap 161 after the one attempt to finish under green was made at lap 160, the race ended on lap 161.