Would Tap-Out Rule Have Worked at Hampton Heat?

A battle between two Late Model Stock veterans at the Hampton Heat 200 at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway (VA) dashed both competitors’ chances at victory.  The incident left some fans wondering if adopting a “tap-out” rule might have provided a different outcome.


During the race, the second leg of the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown, former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champions Lee Pulliam and Peyton Sellers made contact in turn three of the flat 4/10-mile oval.  The contact sent Pulliam spinning, and Sellers was subsequently sent to the rear along with Pulliam for his involvement in the incident.


Sellers appeared on Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” Monday, providing context for the incident and what led to it.


“I was racing Lee Pulliam hard for the win,” said Sellers.  “We are running for the Triple Crown in Virginia.  It’s a three-part series with South Boston, Langley and Martinsville. I won the first stage at South Boston, the Fourth of July race, Lee finished second.


“We were shaping up for another 1-2 finish.  We lined up on a restart with 20 to go, and I was outside Lee.  We had a [choose] cone restart, I took the outside, we went into turn one and he pushed me into the dirt pretty bad.


“We had another restart with five to go, and I said ‘I’m not putting myself in that position again.’ I took the inside, gave up second to Nick Smith, who is a strong competitor at Langley as well.  We were going down the backstretch, and I was racing Nick as hard as I could to try to clear him, because I knew he was tough on the outside.  I just got into the back of Lee and turned him around.”


Ultimately, Sellers took full responsibility for the incident.


“I know it looked very intentional, but I was focusing on the guy outside and got into the back of Lee,” said Sellers.  “I got him sideways when he throttled up and it turned him around.  After the race, I took responsibility for that.  NASCAR put us both to the back for bringing out the caution.


“It ruined his chance for a win, and it dropped us back as well,” added Sellers.  “It’s tough.  I hate that because we are tough competitors, we race each other at South Boston every week. It boils down to when you take some of the best cars in the country and put them up front every week, things are going to happen.  That one was my mistake, I own up to it, and I’m ready to move forward and race and I hope he’ll do the same.”


After hearing Sellers’ explanation and acknowledgement, fans watching the morning show on Speed51’s Facebook page presented by Five Star Bodies wondered if a “tap-out” rule could have preserved Pulliam’s chance to win the race.


A concept most frequently seen in the Midwest, a “tap-out” rule allows a driver to accept blame for an on-track incident when it brings out a caution.  By signaling to officials, typically by reaching out and tapping the roof of their car while passing the flagstand, the offending driver drops to the rear of the field voluntarily, and the other competitor is allowed to maintain his spot on the racetrack.


Sellers was unfamiliar with the practice, but said he would be interested to see it adopted at more Late Model Stock events.


“I would be okay with that,” said Sellers.  “That’s a new concept.  Hey, some things happen on the racetrack, anytime you strap into the car, anything can happen.  If the guy says, ‘Hey, it’s my fault,’ let’s move on and race.  I would be okay with that.”


If such a rule existed for the Hampton Heat, Sellers could have taken blame for his incident with Pulliam, allowing Pulliam to keep the lead.


Would Sellers have opted for a tap-out?  The veteran racer was careful to not commit to that, acknowledging both his lack of familiarity with tap-out etiquette and the varying circumstances behind every on-track incident.


“To be honest with you, I take responsibility,” said Sellers.  “I just heard about the tap-out rule this morning.  Circumstances alter every situation.  Did I spin the guy on purpose? No, I didn’t.  Did I get into him? Yes, I did, I need to take ownership of that.”


Fans who missed Sellers’ interview can click here to watch an on-demand replay of Monday’s episode of “The Morning Bullring.”


-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans

-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo

Would Tap-Out Rule Have Worked at Hampton Heat?