In most sports, rules that apply directly to a particular event are known at the very least before said event starts.
In NASCAR, though, only part of those rules in place, and the rest is up to the drivers to figure out based on past knowledge, or more correctly, what NASCAR's future rule will be.
Yes, NASCAR drivers are now expected by the sanctioning body to be as talented as Miss Cleo -- sans the lawsuits and deceptive billing and advertising claims.
Case in point? Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway that Tony Stewart was handed after Regan Smith was disqualified by NASCAR for making a pass that wasn't within the vaguely-stated and otherwise not consistently applied rules.
NASCAR clarified those rules for future use -- Regan Smith no longer has to wonder if he should wreck the leader for a win because that's what NASCAR seemingly wants -- on Monday through a statement from the sport's president, Mike Helton.
"In NASCAR's opinion he was not forced below the yellow line. NASCAR correctly took immediate action to enforce the policy by penalizing the #01 and scoring the #20 as the race winner," Helton said.
"Since the end of the race there has been some confusion as to what is allowable during the last lap at Daytona and Talladega. To be clear, as we go forward, there will be no passing under the yellow line at any time during NASCAR races at Daytona or Talladega, period. This includes any passing below the yellow line near the start/finish line on the final lap."
Well, I'm certainly glad we got that after the finish of Sunday's race, because, you know, knowing the rules might have changed the outcome a bit -- especially after the confusion that even NASCAR's employees had over the rule for the past few months.
The first example? Sunday's driver's meeting led by race director David Hoots:
"This is your warning. If you race below the yellow line and in the judgment of NASCAR you advance your position, you will be black flagged. If, in NASCAR's judgment you force someone below the yellow line in an effort to stop him from passing you, you may be black flagged," said Hoots.
Apparently NASCAR doesn't see Tony Stewart cutting down across Smith's nose, making contact with No. 01, and sending him below the yellow line to avoid collision as "forcing someone below the yellow line".
Still not convinced NASCAR got caught in its folly? Let's look back to a 2007 Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona in which Johnny Benson made a pass for second place on the last lap under the yellow line -- and it stood.
Benson wasn't penalized because "if you can see the checkered flag on the last lap, anything goes," according to NASCAR spokesman Owen Kearns.
"Anything goes" is apparently synonymous with "you can't pass under the yellow line" in NASCAR's vocab.
Shame on Regan Smith for not knowing the rules, eh?
Somebody owes that 24-year-old a trophy and the recognition for winning a race.