Three times the charm for fans, NASCAR

When NASCAR changed its green-white-checkered rule on Feb. 11 at Daytona International Speedway, allowing for three attempts to finish a race under the green flag, Jamie McMurray was not real happy with the new procedure.

Three days later, he was singing its praises.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.? He wasn't in favor of the switch, either, but doesn't mind it so much now.

Greg Biffle? He says he's OK with it, but really wishes it hadn't come into play at Daytona.

Others are not happy at all with the new rule, which created either chaos or excitement - depending on your perspective - at the end of the Daytona 500.

Kevin Harvick? He's not a fan of the new rule. Neither are Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and a host of other drivers.

You see, it's all a matter of perspective, the perspective being where those drivers were when the new rule was used for the first time, and where they wound up when the free-for-all ended.

The new rule either worked in their favor, handing them an opportunity for a finish they might not otherwise have gotten, or totally ruined their day, sending them home with a bitter disappointment.

"I was not a big fan of that on Thursday when they made the announcement of it, but now I am, because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that," McMurray said during his winner's interview at Daytona.

When NASCAR made a second attempt to finish the Daytona 500 under green, it played right into McMurray's hands, allowing him to charge past Harvick for the stunning upset.

It also helped Earnhardt Jr., who was about mid-pack when a caution flag flew with just one lap remaining in regulation. The first green-white-checkered restart gave him time to move up in the field. The second one allowed him to blast his way from 10th to second.

Biffle would have won the race had there been no green-white-checkered rule at all. He held the lead when the caution flag flew on the final lap of the scheduled distance.

Harvick then took the lead during the first green-white-checkered and would have won had another caution flag not flown on lap 204.

That wreck, incidentally, involved Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, explaining Gordon's disdain for the rule.

"Those last laps were bumper cars at 195 miles an hour," Gordon said. "There is no other way to describe it.

"That is what we do and you know what, it puts a heck of a show on most of the time and madness the others. You don't want to see races end like that."

Regardless of your perspective, NASCAR made a brilliant move in creating the new green-white-checkered rule, which saved the Daytona 500 from being one big disappointment.

NASCAR was already faced with a huge problem thanks to the embarrassing pothole that littered Turn 2 and marred the race, leading to more than two hours of frustrating delays.

But the new green-white-checkered rule - and McMurray's amazing charge - saved the day, giving NASCAR a thrilling finish that overshadowed the near-disaster in Turn 2.

Fans were already angry and frustrated over the red-flag delays. Imagine their angst had the Daytona 500 not ended under green.

Biffle would have won, and it would have been a huge win and a deserving victory for him. But fans would have been livid because he would have won under caution.

Instead, the most thrilling laps of the race were still to come when the caution flag flew on the final lap.

Harvick's dramatic bump-and-run on Martin Truex Jr. to take the lead was a spectacular moment and would have made a fitting end to a thrilling race.

But it wasn't over yet. It was so much fun that fans deserved an encore, and that they got when another caution flag flew.

And the encore was even more thrilling, with McMurray and Biffle making their amazing charge to the front.

Thanks to NASCAR's new rule, which produced two green-white-checkered restarts, fans got their money's worth, watching one of the most dramatic finishes in Daytona 500 history.

And, in the end, that's what the new rule was all about - the fans.

NASCAR has been making rule changes for months now with one thing in mind - pleasing the fans - and the new green-white-checkered rule was another step in that direction.

Fans were confused and disappointed when the Budweiser Shootout ended under caution, with only one attempt at the green-white-checkered. (Harvick won that race, so perhaps it was fitting that he lost the 500 in similar fashion, though he would probably not agree with that.)

So NASCAR immediately sprang into action and altered the rule. It initially considered as many green-white-checkered restarts as necessary to ensure a green-flag finish, but after drivers complained, settled on a compromise of no more than three.

NASCAR officials made the right move to practically guarantee a green-flag finish, which is what the fans deserve in every race.

They should have gone the whole way, allowing as many restarts as it takes, but a compromise to appease drivers and perhaps limit the carnage is fair.

Fans pay big money for tickets to Cup races. The ones who don't invest a lot of time watching them on TV - six hours for the Daytona 500 - and deserve to see a race to the checkered flag, not a caution flag.

Though McMurray is a bit biased, having taken advantage of the rule to win NASCAR's biggest race, he agrees that the fans deserve no less, regardless of the race or who is out front when the checkered flag falls.

"NASCAR has gone out of their way with the rules package and everything they've done to make the fans happy," McMurray said.

"I think if you would have asked all the drivers, they wouldn't have wanted the three green white checkereds, but they're doing what they can for the fans. That's what it's all about."

NASCAR officials deserve credit for implementing the new rule and taking advantage of it in its biggest race. It wound up saving the day.

And they should keep using it every time they can. The fans deserve at least that.