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Critical Thoughts on the So-Called 'Free Pass' Rule
by Ronald Barnes
July 1, 2004

I've been observing that NASCAR has made a mess of their new rule known as the “free pass.” I have several thoughts on this rule. First, It seems like ever since NASCAR enacted this rule in September of 2003, they've made a mess of things by not thinking through the mechanics of the rule first. In any sport, a new rule should be first discussed and thought through before being enacted. NASCAR has, in my opinion, never explained the exact mechanics behind this rule.

Secondly, every time NASCAR has tried to fix the situation, they have made the situation worse by not fixing the root causes behind the failures of the rule. Third, my fellow writer, Vivan Simons, made a good point in a recent article in pointing out that no other sport has rule like this one. Other sports have fixed safety issues without damaging the integrity of the sport. For example, the Indy Racing League has drivers slow down at caution flags and scores the field by going back to the previous lap. This has pretty much worked for them without too much trouble and this is what I feel NASCAR should have done in the first place. Instead, NASCAR blew it by not using it's electronic scoring system and freezing the field without allowing the free pass.

I think there are two ways to fix this mess. In my opinion, they are: First, using the electronic scoring system to settle all scoring disputes and make these decisions final. Secondly, make sure this process is completely transparent to ensure that fans don't feel cheated . In doing this, I feel NASCAR can at least get rid of the recent controversy and restore order to the sport.

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