The beneficiary rule, commonly referred to as the "lucky dog" or "free pass", is a rule in some motor racing leagues allowing the closest lapped driver to the front of the field to gain back a lap when a caution is called. The driver is called to move to the end of the longest line of the cars at the end of that caution period. This rule was instituted to prevent drivers from racing back to the start/finish line when a caution was called.
The new restart rules were an attempt to ensure the leaders would get back to green flag racing without interference from lapped cars. It also created a strategy for lapped cars to earn one lap back (ostensibly by not pitting under a caution flag while all of the leader do), since Indy car racing had never allowed "racing back to the caution", nor did they want to implement a hard rule like the "Lucky Dog" in NASCAR.
The rule was first implemented by NASCAR in the 2003 seasons of its three national series, and in all NASCAR-sanctioned series by 2005.
Before the rule was installed, drivers would "race back to the caution"; however, there was a gentlemen's agreement not to race, but to slow down and not pass, to allow slower cars to get their laps back. During a September 14, 2003, Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Casey Mears came close to contacting the stalled car of Dale Jarrett while racing back to the line during a caution caused by Jarrett's crash.
NASCAR chose to abandon the practice and stop racing immediately in the wake of the incident.
The rule was created as a way of continuing the practice of yielding to the slower cars without sacrificing safety.
The popular term for this rule, Lucky Dog, was first used by Benny Parsons in 2003 during a TNT broadcast at Dover International Speedway. His boothmate Wally Dallenbach, Jr., concurred when Jimmy Spencer, who drove a car sponsored by Sirius Satellite Radio (whose company mascot was a dog, named "Deejay Mongobot"), saying, "That IS a lucky dog." This became used by all NBC and TNT broadcasts, along with the Performance Racing Network radio broadcasts.
Wally Dallenbach, Jr. (born May 23, 1963) is an American racecar driver who formerly competed in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He competed in 226 Winston Cup races from 1991 to 2001 and had 23 top 10 finishes.
The son of open wheel racer and former CART chief steward, Wally Dallenbach, Sr., Wally Jr. is also a road racer. Aside from NASCAR, Dallenbach has raced in SCCA Trans-Am, IMSA Camel GT, CART, and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.