Green-white-checker finish

The green-white-checker finish is a rule implemented into many levels of automobile racing in the United States. When the race would otherwise end during a yellow-flag "caution" condition (during which no competition may take place, including a "no passing" restriction), this rule gives the field an attempt to finish the race under a green-flag, "racing" condition. Instead of ending the race when the stated distance has been covered, it continues until the green flag is given (signalling the end of the caution condition), at which time the drivers resume the race with two laps remaining -- regardless of the actual number of laps covered to that point. They then get the white flag, signaling the final lap, and then take the checkered flag, signaling the end of the race.

Depending on the series' sanctioning body, there may be a number of possible variants cited in the application of this rule.

In 2007, FOX began referring to the green-white-checkered finish as "Overdrive," an allusion to the term "overtime" used in many timed sports.


In the ARCA Re/Max Series, there is a two-stage version of the rule. The rules are arranged such that the checkered flag must wave under green flag conditions.

  • When the green flag is waved for the restart attempt, there are two laps remaining in the race. If a caution comes out at any time during the first of the two laps, each subsequent restart will be a two-lap restart.
  • If a caution comes out during the final lap (after the white flag has been displayed), the race returns to yellow immediately. On 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.

Such a format allows an unlimited number of attempts at a green flag finish. During the event at Gateway International Raceway on July 28, 2006, 22 laps (27.5 miles) were added to the 120-lap (150-mile) scheduled distance.

This version, or a similar variant with no green/white rule, is used in most short tracks.


Regional Series

The Camping World East and 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 Camping World West race.

Craftsman Truck Series (1995-2004)

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.

Sprint Cup & Nationwide Series (July 25, 2004-present)

In the late 1990's, NASCAR's other two national series, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, had set a loose precedent 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 controversy.

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 "Lucky dog" (or "Free Pass") 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 many observers, including FOX commentators Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond.

In the wake of the controversies, in mid-July 2004, all three touring series, adopted a new, revised green-white-checkered rule. The revised format handles late-race cautions in a standardized manner.

Caution after the white flag has been shown

The race is over. The field is frozen at the moment of the yellow flag, and the scoring is official as cars cross the finish line. There is a notable exception to this rule. If there is an incident during the final lap behind the leaders, and the run to the finish line is clear for the leaders, NASCAR may delay the caution until the checkered flag is shown, allowing the leaders to race for the win. In such cases track safety workers may arrive at the scene of the incident. This exception was used during the 2007 Daytona 500.

Caution before the white flag has been shown

If a late-race caution occurs with at least one more lap to go, and the caution is expected to continue beyond the scheduled race distance, NASCAR allows one attempt to finish the race under green flag conditions.

When it is determined that the track is clear for racing, the green flag is shown, indicating the restart. As the leader completes the first lap, the white flag is shown, signaling the final lap. As the leader completes the second lap, the checkered flag is shown, signaling the conclusion of the race.

If the caution flag comes out at any time during the green-white-checkered finish, the race is over. The field is frozen at the moment of the yellow flag, and the scoring is official as cars cross the finish line.

In the event of a race ending due to caution, video evidence is used in addition to scoring loops to determine the official order of finish.

A green-white-checkered finish will extend the race beyond its advertised distance, and competitors were not allowed to pit for fuel without losing positions. Teams are responsible for considering the extended distance in their fuel strategies. However, if the cleanup is expected to take considerable time, NASCAR may red flag the race with the cars on the track, so that cars don't consume all their fuel under caution.

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