To Low-Line or Not to Low-Line


Marc Cohn On May 15, 2014
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As this is my first contribution to TheSimPit, I figured it would be best to start off this piece by introducing myself. I have been a sim racer since I was four years old, of which I have raced virtually every sim from NASCAR Racing to rFactor 2. While I have only been involved in online racing as a driver and team owner for the last couple of years, I have had the chance to compete in NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, Rallycross, World Sports Cars, Dirt Late Models, Off Road Trucks, and many other disciplines. The majority of my experience, however, has been ovals, leading to a topic that I feel should be discussed in greater depth.

One controversial topic I learned about very early on in my online sim racing career was that of 'low-lining,' also nicknamed 'bottom feeding.' I had never heard of this term in real racing or knew what it meant until I was informed that it meant to drive right next to the yellow or white line, that indicates the transition between the racing surface and apron on an oval track for multiple laps, in order to try and protect a position. After a slight bit of research, I noticed that this tactic alone could lead to very heated discussions on forums, as well as rules within certain leagues that specifically disallowed it. Even so, I was still wondering what the fuss was all about?

My online sim racing experience started off primarily with open-wheel oval racing, arguably the realm of motorsport in which this tactic is most likely to occur. During quite a few speedway and superspeedway events where the cars are virtually flat out the whole race, it was easy to see that it could be possible to lead multiple laps, if not most of an event by getting in front and holding that position all the way around the track. At the same time, I couldn't help but think that doing this would lead to more fuel consumption since you would be the 'pied piper' leading the cars around the track and potentially be a disadvantage on pit strategy, if the race has green flag pit stops. But, what if the race is a caution-fest? Wouldn't it make sense to stay up front?

The only other form of motorsport where I have seen this happen is in stock car racing. It is much less likely to occur due to the cars having more weight and less downforce among other things, but, a driver could still hold the ideal line around a speedway, or hold the low line at a superspeedway. One potential problem as stated before regarding fuel consumption would have a much bigger effect considering that stock cars punch a bigger hole in the air versus open wheel cars. The other one though, also related to aerodynamics, is that stock cars can bump-draft on superspeedways, leading to the possibility of the high line of the track being faster and a train of cars on the outside being able to challenge those on the inside.

I had seen arguments in which some of the most prominent sim racers in the United States regarded low-lining as unsportsmanlike and dirty. That being said, I knew I had to get more opinions about it. I first talked to multiple drivers regarding this subject, mainly team owners David 'The Iceman' McConnell and David Nannen of GeForce Racing and High Speed Racing respectively. Both of them strongly felt that low-lining was neither unsportsmanlike or dirty. In fact, a majority of others including VirtualVelocity Motorsports founder Gary 'Eagleman GT' Huff shared this same sentiment, regarding it simply as holding your line and not doing anything that should be regarded as of ill intent. McConnell probably summed it up best when he asked me “What, so, you're supposed to let somebody get a draft off of you then leave that lane open so they can pass you?”

In my opinion, low-lining is a topic brought up by racers that are simply unable to pass a driver that is holding the fastest line around the track. Is it dirty, unsportsmanlike, or not within the spirit of motor racing? Not at all. The fact that drivers are unable to be creative enough to get by these drivers through capitalizing on mistakes, pit strategy, or the old 'chrome-horn' if you feel like it is absolutely necessary, just shows that they are more inclined to whinge in order to try and make things easier for themselves to compete. Rather than just take the time to race through event out without getting put off by something as simple as this. If there are topics that should be regarded as dirty, how about things such as drivers holding rivals up in order to let their teammates get away from the competition through tactics such as brake-checking?
        
One last point that I felt is relevant comes from a recent UpInSmokeRacing Race2Play IROC event I competed in at the Daytona International Speedway. I was able to hold the lead after starting on the pole by low-lining, but by lap ten out of fifty I couldn't help but think that the fact that I could lead over 75% of the laps with hardly any effort being given. Plus, the two cars in the three-car tango I was in would render me a sitting duck by the end of the race. I could have stayed in the lead much longer but instead dropped back to third, following the draft and thinking through each lap of how I could potentially plot that perfect move that would win me the race. When it came time for the final lap, I pushed the second-place car on the backstretch to the outside line to the lead and attempted to try and get him far enough to the point where I could go inside on the tri-oval to beat him in a photo finish. While I unfortunately ran out of time to pass the eventual victor, it still begged the question – isn't racing about pushing yourself and having fun? While low-lining is a fair tactic that could lead to victory, the decision remains, would you rather win through holding one line throughout the whole race? or by fighting through traffic wheel-to-wheel with other drivers and completing difficult passes to get into victory lane? While I personally would prefer the latter, the choice is yours.

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Comments

Jack Roussy On 2014-05-20 14:48:45
Jack Roussy

Great article Marc.
Funny how so many people will use a different line when racing, I'm not a oval racer but the same can be said for road racing, if you try and learn various lines around any corners, it prepares you to be able to negotiate those turns on or off line to overtake and maybe even as a great measure for crash avoidance. Some people's arrogance figure you should use the same line as them. The way I look at it (especially in iRacing) if you didn't get a off track incident, then you're not doing anything wrong, actually, if you avoided a crash or overtook another car by doing this, you are doing it right! smile
Take care
 
Regards:  >>>> Jack <<<<

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Marc Cohn On 2014-05-20 05:58:10
Marc Cohn

Thanks for all the comments and words of support everyone! If you have anything you'd like me to cover, please feel free to suggest them here.

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Craig Capon On 2014-05-19 18:51:22
Craig Capon

Great piece Marc, I definitely learned something new, as I had never heard the term "low lining" before, but it is definitely a tactic I have seen and occasionally used myself.  The most recent example of me doing this was an iRacing league race at Atlanta.  I was holding the low line around the track and the second place guy was tailing me big time, and he just expected me to yield the position simply because he was able to stay with me.  The league admin called me out and directed me to yield the position because he concluded I was "blocking."  I abided by his directive, but looked up blocking in the iRacing sporting code afterwards.  Not surprisingly, I did not engage in blocking and in fact holding my position, or as you call it, low lining, is perfectly legal.

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Lowell Jewell On 2014-05-17 10:11:49
Lowell Jewell

Glad to see you on The SimPit, Marc!! Look forward to more of your stuff!

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mislav dubokovic On 2014-05-17 08:14:11
mislav dubokovic

I really dont see any problem with low-lining. I had an exciting race last year in Star Mazda at Charlotte.As soon as i started practice i figured out its all flat out and keeping the low line as much as possible.I immediately thought why did they choose this car/track combo, this is going to be boring.But turned out i was wrong.I started at the back of the pack with no quali,and lap after lap people battling for the lead made mistakes.Also i made a couple of passes on the people in front of me and after half race distance done i found myself challenging the leaders.Of course people who knew what they are doin kept the low line but the one thats chasing is able to stick right up his tale and that way force him into an error by taking a turn even slightly more on the left than him.That way i found myself leading,and i can tell you it was not an easy task to defend that position cause people were trying everything on me ,one even bump into me and almost climb on my car due to draft ,not me braking or anything but luckily my car was not damaged and he was sent into a spin collecting another car and me winning the race.So should i kept that low line?I think yes and everyone else would do that.Its just that some car/track combinations produce that kind of races,and the leader is wulnerable cause other have draft on him but anything else he does compromises his position so its just the way it is at least for the shorter races without pit stops.I konw people maybe compare this to rad racing blocking,but its a bit diferent than that.But even that alot of people dont complain about if its done acording to rules.I once drove defensive for the half of the race with skippy at mid ohio and the guy behind me eventually got me and pass me for the win.later he wasnt complaining,he told me those werer the most satesfying llaps he ever drove on iRacing.

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mislav dubokovic On 2014-05-17 08:14:11
mislav dubokovic

I really dont see any problem with low-lining. I had an exciting race last year in Star Mazda at Charlotte.As soon as i started practice i figured out its all flat out and keeping the low line as much as possible.I immediately thought why did they choose this car/track combo, this is going to be boring.But turned out i was wrong.I started at the back of the pack with no quali,and lap after lap people battling for the lead made mistakes.Also i made a couple of passes on the people in front of me and after half race distance done i found myself challenging the leaders.Of course people who knew what they are doin kept the low line but the one thats chasing is able to stick right up his tale and that way force him into an error by taking a turn even slightly more on the left than him.That way i found myself leading,and i can tell you it was not an easy task to defend that position cause people were trying everything on me ,one even bump into me and almost climb on my car due to draft ,not me braking or anything but luckily my car was not damaged and he was sent into a spin collecting another car and me winning the race.So should i kept that low line?I think yes and everyone else would do that.Its just that some car/track combinations produce that kind of races,and the leader is wulnerable cause other have draft on him but anything else he does compromises his position so its just the way it is at least for the shorter races without pit stops.I konw people maybe compare this to rad racing blocking,but its a bit diferent than that.But even that alot of people dont complain about if its done acording to rules.I once drove defensive for the half of the race with skippy at mid ohio and the guy behind me eventually got me and pass me for the win.later he wasnt complaining,he told me those werer the most satesfying llaps he ever drove on iRacing.

Reply

Shawn Purdy On 2014-05-16 21:27:18
Shawn Purdy

Personally I enjoy racing with people, but I don't see a reason to complain about low lining. It is fun to defend a position sometimes too. Than again I'm a road course guy. So if you can keep the guy behind, it's probably best you do. I just don't like the "fall over" and give up mentality of not allowing someone to do what they should be able to do. Its part of racing. Maybe it's not always fun, but there is always aspects of racing that are not fun. I'd run the line that gives me the best lap time. If that is low lining. Than that's where I will be. Personally I think leagues make those rules up because too many people complain and the numbers drop during the season. They want to retain a driving base so it doesn't get boring and the league ends up dieing as of a result. I can see why it would be made a rule in some leagues. On the other hand it may also just make people not join at all, depending on the person.

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Bailey Lagstrum On 2014-05-16 18:13:57
Bailey Lagstrum

Not being an oval racer myself I can't say too much about the tactic, other than... if I'm maintaining the ideal line, get your own, I'm not giving mine up! lol
But I can speak on having fun, which is the reason I race. The races I remember and talk about the most aren't the one's where I drove around in 1st all race with no competition. Quite the contrary.
Looking at some of my results one could easily say "meh", however, the events of the race may have actually made a 7th or 8th place finish more of a "wow, impressive" in my book. smile
Getting nailed and re-entering the race track 30 seconds a drift of the last car only to climb back thru the pack. Nice one! smile
Going half the race alongside two or three drivers matching my skill and ability only to hold them off. Shewww, glad that's over! lol
Realizing there must have been a bulleye's on your bumper somewhere but I managed to finish! Tomorrow's another day!
We've all won a race due to attriton, but those aren't the one's I remember or truly enjoyed. ;)

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Gene Lanich On 2014-05-16 04:13:30
Gene Lanich

"would you rather win through holding one line throughout the whole race? or by fighting through traffic wheel-to-wheel with other drivers and completing difficult passes to get into victory lane? While I personally would prefer the latter, the choice is yours."

I myself prefer the fight, love it, even if i finish last. But there are many who will win at all costs in the SIM world. If i was racing a serious race requiring a podium win for sponsor approval, you may find me looking for another series to race in. No one wins all the time and Low lining sounds like it is a sure thing. But watch out for the teamates who may have a racing incident with the first place runner wink Or a lap car that makes a mistake trying to get out of the way of the lead car? Those who try such race tactics make many enemies on the track. They may be in the lead, but they are looking behind themselves constantly wondering who is targeting them to take them out. I wouldn't want to be in that position. Of course i,never will, i sandbag the qualifying to have a fun race from the back.,

Gene "MOBspeedracer" Lanich

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