A slow-motion version of the pass for the lead on the last lap of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
GIF: NASCAR on NBC

“Out of bounds” almost never applies in NASCAR, but passing below the yellow line at a restrictor-plate race tracks is a no-go. Driver Justin Haley got a harsh reminder of that Friday, when he barely dipped below the line in a bold move for the win and got penalized. But the call, and the rule, could be a lot clearer.

Haley made the pass for the lead under the No. 42 of Kyle Larson and the No. 1 of Elliott Sadler on the last lap of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, sliding by the two and taking the checkered flag with a decently sized gap as they battled for second.

But Haley, who was only making his second Xfinity Series start of the year, missed the big warning approaching the driver’s side of the car: that yellow line. NASCAR’s never been shy in saying how strict it is about that rule, and gave Larson, who took the flag second, the victory after the fact. Haley was dropped to last car on the lead lap, putting him 18th in the final finishing order.

But the definition of “below the yellow line” is what matters in this case, and NASCAR has that defined—clearly, or so it seems.

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NASCAR’s rulebook defines passing below the yellow line as “when the vehicle’s left side tires are beneath the left line of the inside double yellow lines that separates the apron from the racing surface while passing another vehicle.” (Where are the rules on hyphens? Yikes.)

It isn’t as clear as it all looks in the rulebook, though. NASCAR Xfinity Series managing director Wayne Auton met with reporters at the track almost immediately after the race to address the call, and seemed to imply that the whole move was judged in making the decision about Haley’s pass—not just up until the point his nose was in the lead.

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“Looking at all the video we have, when you [put] the left side tires ... below the line, we have to make the call,” Auton said, as quoted by Autoweek’s Matt Weaver on Twitter. “It’s clearly defined on the drivers meeting video and it’s something drivers have wanted defined for a long time.

“The rule states ‘if you advance your position,’ and he clearly advanced his position. It doesn’t matter if his nose is an inch out front or a foot out front, you’re below and advancing.”

A later quote from Auton said two members of Haley’s team accepted the call, while teammate Spencer Gallager made it clear on Twitter that he didn’t.

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Here’s a version of the pass broken down by still frames:

GIF: NASCAR on NBC

Haley went to victory lane to shake Larson’s hand after the race, but wasn’t clear on the call in a television interview after the finish.

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“I don’t know,” Haley told the NBC crew. “I just wish NASCAR would be a little more... tell us how much of the car we can have under the yellow line. I don’t get this opportunity enough. Seeing the replay there, there was room for me to go up, so I don’t know why they’re calling me like that, but, you know.

“Not how we wanted it to end, but like I said, I’m running trucks full season and this is just an opportunity to come over here part time. I’m extremely blessed to even get the opportunity.”