What is the Green-White-Checkered Rule?

Explaining NASCAR's Version of Overtime

A classic example of a restart in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. NASCAR Images

One of the most unique aspects of NASCAR is that, unlike many professional racing organizations, major league stock car events are given multiple attempts to try to end races under green flag conditions. The mandate is called the Green-White-Checkered and is essentially NASCAR's version of overtime, a tactic designed to ensure that races do not end under the yellow flag.

The rules and history for the Green- White-Checkered-Checkered finish as utilized in all three NASCAR national divisions goes as follows:

GWC Procedure

  • In the closing stages of a race, should a late-race caution push the event past its advertised distance, there will be three attempts to get the race to conclude under green.
  • As soon as the track is clear of all debris from the previous caution, the field will go green for two laps, taking a green flag on the first pass through, the white flag on the second and then the checkered flag to conclude the event. 
  • If the caution comes out during the green flag lap of a Green-White-Checkered finish, the field will be frozen under caution and given up to two more attempts to finish the race under green. Should the caution come out after the leader takes the white flag, the field will be frozen with the race ending under caution. Under this scenario, the final running order will be determined by the last pass-through by a scoring loop.

Video replay may also be used by NASCAR where necessary.

  • If after three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, a caution halts the race before the leaders take the white flag, the race will also end under the caution. The field will be frozen just as if the leader had taken the white flag with the final running order being determined by the last pass-through by a scoring loop or using video replay evidence.
  • The rule does not apply if the race was halted by rain.

History and Future

While the ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR regional and touring and various Super Late Model tours had a rule similar to the Green-White-Checkered, NASCAR did not adopt the format for national touring until 1995 with the rollout of what is now the Camping World Truck Series.

For the longest time, NASCAR allowed unlimited green-white-checkered attempts for the Truck Series until July 2004 when a race at Gateway International Raceway went from a 160-lap event into a 174-lap marathon due to the unlimited number of attempts.

As a result, NASCAR limited the series to just one attempt and extended the rule to the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series as well.

NASCAR revised the rule in February of 2011 to allow for up to three attempts for a race to end under green if the first and second attempts do not make it through the conclusion without a caution. The rule was made necessary after that year’s Sprint Unlimited controversially ended under caution.

NASCAR once again tinkered with the rule in 2015, ordering only one attempt to be used, if necessary, for the October race at Talladega.

The rules may once again change in the future as conversation has begun to at least consider expanding the green-white-checkered so that every race must end under green, regardless of the circumstances.

The ARCA Racing Series is again leading the charge, spearheading the conversation as a result of a recent rule change that forces all races to end under the green flag.

Should the caution come out with the leader exiting Turn 4, it won't matter and will result in a yellow and a do-over. Many fans argue that's how racing should be.

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