Lucky Dog Rule Explained

Lucky Dog rule sacrifices competition in the name of entertainment

During the 2003 season, in an effort to increase safety for the drivers, NASCAR banned racing back to the yellow flag after the caution is displayed. While this has increased safety (safety crews are able to respond more quickly) the rule contains a special "Lucky Dog" provision which greatly sacrifices the integrity of the sport.

What is the Lucky Dog rule?

NASCAR's Lucky Dog rule states that the first driver one lap down automatically gets his lap back when the caution comes out.

Some clarifications and exceptions:

  • If the driver is a lap down because of a NASCAR penalty he is not eligible for the "Lucky Dog" pass.


  • Drivers who are a lap down because of mechanical problems are not eligible for the "Lucky Dog" until the leaders have lapped at least one car on the track.


  • The driver that causes the caution is not eligible to receive the "Lucky Dog" pass during that yellow.


The "Lucky Dog" Rule was first used at Dover in September of 2003. One of the drivers to receive the "Lucky Dog" during that first race was Ryan Newman. Newman took full advantage of his free pass and went on to win the race.

Lucky Dog Fairness

The "Lucky Dog" rule is an arbitrary advantage given to a driver that doesn't deserve it. They don't have to earn it in any way. He doesn't have to be within a certain distance of the leader or earn it based on drivers points or anything else. Just be the first car one lap down, have a yellow come out and bingo!

Free lap!

There have been a number of occasions where a driver took advantage of the "Lucky Dog" rule and came back to win the race. This just isn't fair.

Lets Compare To Some Other Major Sports

Imagine if the NFL automatically gave the team that was behind 3 points anytime either team fumbled. Or in baseball, if either team makes an error the team behind automatically gets one run.

Sure these rules would make for closer and more exciting games but they would never be implemented because they go against the very foundation of sport.

However, motorsports is fundamentally different. The theory is that drivers would unlap themselves anyways as the leader would allow a handful of drivers to pass him prior to the creation of the lucky dog rule. So it could be argued that the rule actually limits the number of drivers benefiting from it getting back on the lead lap.


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