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This time, yellow line sends Marlin reeling



Published: Thu, February 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Sterling Marlin stayed in his car this time. Too bad he didn't stay above the yellow line.

Marlin lost a chance at a third Daytona 500 victory Sunday when NASCAR penalized him for passing too low on the racetrack.

Running in fifth position on the 74th lap, Marlin fell to 38th before salvaging a 17th-place finish in the rain-shortened race won by Michael Waltrip.

It followed Marlin's near-miss last year, when he was penalized for getting out of his car to fix fender damage during a red-flag delay.

He found humor in fender-gate. The yellow line rule was no laughing matter.

"NASCAR's got to figure out who's calling the shots," Marlin said. "I talked to two different high officials -- as high as you can go -- and both of them had two different scenarios for the yellow line.

"They've got to get their stuff right before they can tell us what to do. One tells you one thing and one tells you another -- so who do you believe?"

Drivers received a refresher course on the rule from NASCAR president Mike Helton two hours before the race Sunday.

Helton warned that the rule would be enforced more than ever, with drivers now prohibited from forcing a competitor below the line.

The yellow-line rule is in effect at Daytona, as well as Talladega, to keep cars from creating dangerous situations by driving on the apron. The rule originally only prohibited drivers from using the apron to pass other cars and improve position.

That's what Marlin did, regardless of why he was under the line.

While running in the middle of a pack, he drove below the line to avoid Elliott Sadler's swerving car. Marlin gained several spots on the move, advancing to fifth before serving a stop-and-go penalty. Marlin returned to the track in 38th and had to battle to stay on the lead lap.

NASCAR, which did not penalize Sadler, said Marlin was black-flagged because drivers were clearly warned that even if forced below the line they were not to pass any cars.




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