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lucky dog rule. (NASCAR) Officially known as the Beneficiary Rule in NASCAR, the Lucky Dog rule (also known as the Free Pass) is invoked when there are problems on the track during an automobile race, such as debris or a crash. It's a bit complicated for those of us who are unfamiliar with automobile racing, so please bear with me.

When there is a problem on the course, safety requires that everyone slow down until the debris is cleared. Keeping it fair is not so easy as it might seem. The Caution, or Yellow Flag, is displayed at the start/finish line, each car arrives at this point rather arbitrarily and then follows the pace car, holding their positions. In the past there was a “race to the flag” to gain position. That is, until they crossed the line, drivers continued to jockey for position. In 2003, a driver, Casey Mears, came precariously close to smashing into one of the disabled cars as he attempted to gain a lap. Since tradition had been to allow lapped drivers to regain laps during cautions, it apparently seemed important to throw these drivers a bone when the race to the flag was banned, hence the lucky dog rule.reference 1 “The rule allows the driver of the next lapped car or truck behind the leader to gain back a lap during a caution. The driver is called to move to the end of the longest line of the cars at the end of that caution period.”reference 2

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Lucky dog indeed. Kyle Busch regained five laps in five consecutive caution periods at Watkins Glen in 2006. Without the rule, Busch would have finished 36th and fallen to 7th place in the point standings. The lucky break put him in the top 10 for the day and he rose to 5th place in the season standings.reference 3

1. Wikipedia contributors. 2008. Nascar Rules and Regulations. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed Mar 10 2008 from http:// /wiki/ NASCAR_rules _and_regulations.

2. Wikipedia contributors. 2008. Lucky Dog. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed Mar 10 2008 from http:// wiki/ Lucky_dogLucky.

3. Bowles, Tom. 2006. Lucky, but Not Fair. Time Warner. Accessed March 10 2008 from http:// 2006/ writers/ tom_bowles/ 08/ 15/ inside.nascar/ index.html.

About the illustrations: Figure 1 shows a yellow caution flag being waved on a race track. Digitally collaged by the author.

Figure 2 is Kyle Bush himself, from his very own web site. I believe that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images of promotional images to provide critical commentary on the public figure in question qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

see also: lucky dog; dog's chance Last updated: December 5, 2008
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