I learned something about myself this weekend. Coming from a guy who complained about tandem drafting like it was some new found love that played hard-to-get… I realized I couldn’t live without her.
Restrictor plates have created a style of racing in Nascar that seems to be constantly evolving and have ushered in several rule changes that spans over several decades. Most of these changes came after the crash of Bobby Allison at the 1987 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, where Allison's Buick LeSabre blew a tire at 200 mph and became airborne, impacting the catch fencing. The car damaged 100 feet of fencing and flying debris injured several spectators. From then on, Nascar mandated the use of restrictor plates at all superspeedways to restrict air flow to the engine, thus decreasing horsepower substantially. As a result, a new era of pack-racing was created, as well as a whole set of new problems.
Fast forwarding to the present, we see many types of superspeedway racing in each of Nascar’s top three series. In the Camping World Truck Series, we see an “old school” type of pack racing with veteran drivers exploiting the inexperience of many young guns by performing the famous sling-shot pass. Trucks tend to punch a much larger hole in the air, which creates a very traditional form of pack-racing that we associate with the late 90’s/early 2000’s. The two-car-tandem exists primarily in the Nationwide series, although we have seen it used various times in other series. Let’s note that the two-car-tandem is defined by two cars bump drafting and dividing the air resistance between them, thus creating faster speeds than the traditional drafting practices of the past. It should also be noted that in order for this style of racing to be successful, both the back and the front bumpers of each car must line up in a way to facilitate the bump drafting effect where the following car essentially pushes the front car around the track, also creating overheating issues after only a few laps. We saw a combination of several styles of racing in the Nationwide series this weekend that made for an exciting race throughout the entirety of the event.
As of late, Nascar has implemented the new Gen-6 car in the Sprint Cup Series, which incorporates the innovative safety features of the COT as well as brand identity for each manufacturer. This new car also produced a new, yet old, traditional style of drafting at superspeedways. Although this year’s Daytona 500 was one of the most anticipated of recent memory, primarily because of Danica Patrick, I believe that it quite honestly did not live up to its expectations. An important feature of the new Gen-6 car that one must understand is that the current rule package offers more down force at short and mile and a half tracks, but substantially decreases down force at superspeedways. No one seemed to know what to expect once the cars got onto the track in large numbers. What we saw was single file racing, difficult passing, and a pocket of air between each car that forced many drivers to settle rather than risk. I firmly believe that the new Gen-6 car will create much better racing at short and intermediate tracks.
One night, the “Two-Car-Tandem” showed up at a familiar bar while we were partying with friends and offered us something different. As any hormone driven bachelor would do, we instinctively latched on to her excitement and had our fun. But like any love affair, the time came when we grew tired of this young girl. We started reminiscing about the “old days” of something more familiar to us during a time we’ll never have again. We remembered the “old” pack racing of Dale Sr. and longed to go back to those days. We loved those old days. Somehow, this new girl didn’t seem so hot anymore. We want our old women back!
Guess what fellas? We got the old women back and she was the same bitch then that she is now. She’s boring and has problems of her own. So what are we to do? Well, we have to choose between the lesser of two evils… at least until a new piece of meat walks into the bar.
In my opinion, the Nationwide Series has the perfect package for this style of racing. It combines traditional pack-racing with the new “tandem drafting” that we all grew to hate so much. It’s kind of like having a wife with a girlfriend on the side. Whoever said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it too?