Above Photo: Jake Crum (01) gets into Lee Pulliam (5) while battling for the lead only to have the caution wave during the Myrtle Beach 400 because Pulliam is sideways. (Photo by Corey Latham) Below Photo: Screenshot from the video of the Thanksgiving Classic at the point of contention when Justin Johnson (44) and Matt McCall crossed the finish line prior to the critical caution. (Video by Tony McNeal)

Opinion :: By the Book or Common Sense?

It seems every week we hear of some call not being made correctly at some track. I mean it’s a pretty normal thing for racers and fans to complain when their driver doesn’t win but lately especially in the big races here at the end of the season it seems as if the tracks can’t do anything right.

The funniest part is in the last two weekends tracks have come under scrutiny for decisions made that were the polar opposite of one another.

Two weekends ago, Myrtle Beach Speedway’s Myrtle Beach 400 was under a cloud of controversy because the leaders got together and the yellow flag waved despite no one spinning. The letter of the law (race procedures) was followed and Lee Pulliam, who was turned sideways in front of the field was put to the rear of the field because his extremely sideways car was the culprit for the caution to be waved.

What followed that was fans and racers frustration that “common sense” was not applied. Common sense would have said that while Lee’s car getting sideways was the cause of the caution as a reaction to keep more cars from getting in a crash that never developed, that Pulliam should keep his spot wherever he blended in and racing should have resumed. Instead race director Shayne Laws determined that because the rule was that whoever brought out the caution was to go to the rear of the field that Pulliam should go to the rear of the field.

Common sense was not applied. That was much to the dismay of fans and racers alike who took to social media to complain and talk about how Pulliam was done wrong. Laws for his part was bashed and trashed as the “worst race director ever” because he followed the rules and didn’t use common sense.

Eight days later in Lucama, NC at Southern National Motorsports Park, common sense was applied. Matt McCall and Justin Johnson were in a heated battle back and forth for the lead but it appeared by the slighest margin that Johnson was ahead at the line on the lap before a crucial caution waved that some say changed the outcome of the race. It was a razor thin margin, one not called by the officials but rather by electronic scoring, where McCall was given the lead.

McCall went on to win the race by 1.5 seconds much to the disappointment of Johnson who felt he was cheated out of the win because of the decision at that caution. After a review of the video with Johnson leading by the narrowest of margins, the track knew they had made a mistake. But 20 some odd laps later how do you fix it? Those types of mistakes have to be corrected in the moment or they live on as a bad call in a football or basketball game does.

Compounding the issue was the fact that McCall’s transponder was found to be located in the front of the car and not 14′ 2″ inches from the leading edge of the car as stated in the rulebook. Teams at many races are allowed to run the transponder in the front because they are hardwired and can’t easily be moved. Several other area tracks including South Boston and Motor Mile have allowed the location in the past. And according to crew members who were in attendance at the race, they were given permission to leave their transponder in the front position by race director and head tech man Juston Ellis prior to Sunday’s event.

With $20,000 at stake the right decision was going to be a tough one. McCall’s transponder position and subsequent caution where McCall and Johnson were side by side was now one of those questions. Do you call it “by the book” or do you apply “common sense”?

It took over three hours of deliberation but ultimately McCall was able to keep the win because track owner Michael Diaz made the call citing “common sense” as the ultimate decision maker. Fans and racers have once again taken to social media to say what an awful person Diaz is for making such a call and not just “going by the book”. The same thing they cried foul about last week at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

You just can’t have it both ways. Everyone needs to decide whether they’d like to live in a world where every little procedure is followed to the letter and it screws one driver out of a chance to win or if common sense is going to prevail and it screws another driver out of a chance to win.

At the end of the day no matter what the rulebook or race procedures say, common sense should ultimately be the deciding factor. None of us want to live in a world or race at a track where even when it’s the wrong thing to do, we can’t do it right because it says so in some book or in the law that it can only be one way. Many of you have been caught speeding and only been given a warning which was wrong by the letter of the law. I don’t hear you complaining about your neighbor not getting a speeding ticket just because it’s the law.

Ultimately this race wasn’t decided at that caution. It was decided by the 20 plus laps of racing that followed. Did the transponder location give McCall the advantage for the restart? Sure. Did he win because of it. I don’t know but 1.5 seconds …. 1.5 seconds was the margin of victory.

So is it better to follow the letter of the law or should we apply common sense? Seems most of you want it both ways depending on the people involved or the situation that comes up. Make up your mind. What do you want?


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Langley Austin

Langley Austin

Langley founded what you see today because he saw a gap in coverage for Late Model Stock Cars (LMSC), which race primarily throughout the southeast region. His passion and determination for LMSC helped grow the brand of not only race22.com but the reputation of LMSC racing. He was not really involved in the day to day for a few years but has returned in hopes of returning race22.com to the forefront of short track media specifically with the LMSC racing community.