Blog Entry

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:32 am
Edited on: July 3, 2011 12:48 am

By Pete Pistone



Opinions about the new tandem drafting that is now the norm in restrictor plate racing vary. 

Not surprisingly those views are impacted by a driver’s performance. 

David Ragan, who won Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, for instance is a fan. 

And why not? After suffering major heartbreak at last February’s Daytona 500 when his chance to win “The Great American race” went out the window when he was penalized for changing lanes before a restart, Saturday’s first career Sprint Cup win was sweep redemption for the Georgia driver. 

“Sometimes it fits someone's driving style,” Ragan said after his historic victory. “I hated this place the first time I came down here because I didn't like that you could just hold it to the floor and ride around. But once I learned there is a strategy behind the racing, it's actually some of the most fun racing you'll take part in. 

“So I had a blast tonight. The racecars are good that I drive. I've been fortunate to have good spotters that have coached me well.” 

Then there’s Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s perspective. 

Junior has been an outspoken critic of the pairs racing and clearly misses the old pack style of plate racing. 

That opinion didn’t change after he was shuffled out of the lead draft in Saturday night’s overtime finishes. 

“You guys need to get your own frickin' opinions and write what y'all think about it," Earnhardt said to the media gathered after he crawled from his car. "Because I think (those opinions are) pretty damn close to mine. So stop putting my damn foot in my mouth with y'all and getting my ass in trouble. Y'all write what y'all think, man. C'mon. Y'all are good. Y'all got an opinion about it; I read y'all's (blank). 

Earnhardt and the Hendrick Motorsports team was questioned when teammate Jimmie Johnson, who had drafted with Junior all night long, pitted for fuel after the first overtime caution flag flew. 

Earnhardt had no idea why the team’s strategy had shifted. 

“I'm driving my car, do what I'm told," he said. "They decided to do something different. I can't run the whole damn thing from the seat of the damn racecar. I'm just doing what I'm told out there. I don't know how that affected us, if it did at all. It probably didn't."

There were 41 other drivers outside of Ragan and Earnhardt who had opinions about Saturday night’s racing. 

It’s a pretty safe bet all were on one side or another.

There’s no place for anyone to be in the middle when it comes to restrictor plate racing.  



Joey Logano 

On the heels of his dramatic Nationwide Series win Friday night at Daytona, Logano rebounded with a Top 5 run in the Sprint Cup Series effort. Back-to-back strong weekends for Logano should have his confidence rising as he tries to perform under scrutiny and speculation about his future at Joe Gibbs Racing. 

Kasey Kahne 

Did Team Red Bull General Manager Jay Frye a major favor by hooking up with teammate Brian Vickers and keeping the stable’s pair of entries at the front of the field. Kahne came home fourth to help showcase the team’s potential for possible new investors and along the way notched up a few spots in the point standings. 

Paul Menard

As he did at Daytona during Speedweeks, Menard proved to be a worthy drafting partner to his Richard Childress Racing teammates and kept himself in the mix as a potential winner down the stretch.



Trevor Bayne 

The Cinderella story for Bayne ended early when the clock struck Midnight less than five laps into the race.  Got caught by a shot from Brad Keselowski and then into the wall to fall from Daytona 500 winner to 43rd place four months later. A bitter pill for Bayne to swallow but yet another dip in a roller coaster season. 

Carl Edwards 

Came into the race as the points leader and poised to make up the one position that kept him from a Daytona 500 win in February. But was the victim of a bad push from teammate Greg Biffle as the duo raced off turn four and Edwards lost his shot at being a contender to win the race when he slammed the inside retaining wall. 

Martin Truex Jr.  

Spent plenty of time at the front of the field drafting with Michael Waltrip Racing teammate David Reutimann and looked like he’d be in the mix for the win. That is until the night’s first green-white-checkered finish and Truex was caught up in the “Big One” that left him with a destroyed Toyota and an animated description of his feelings.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

“Guys, we'll make something out of this, even if it's just a finish! I appreciate you guys working!" – Carl Edwards after his early exit 

“Junior, we're surrounded by a bunch of guys who don't do this all that often. We need to get the (blank) out of here." – Jimmie Johnson 

“Morons! How stupid do you gotta be?!" – Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

"It's always somebody's fault but it's never my fault. I just get (blank-ing) destroyed. I'm tired of this (blank)." – Martin Truex Jr.



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 a two. Restrictor plate racing has always been an acquired taste but the two-car drafting style is not a pleasant one for me. Since the advent of the tandem draft, races have been nothing more than pairs of cars riding around and swapping positions between one another until the very end when all hell then breaks loose. Sure the multi-car packs had many of the same elements. But whether you loved or hated them, the boredom factor was never an issue. It is now. Spending two-plus hours waiting for a demolition derby to decide the outcome is not the best kind of NASCAR “racing.”



After years of waiting and clamoring for a Sprint Cup Series race the fans of Kentucky Speedway finally get their wish next Saturday night with the inaugural Quaker State 400. The race is already sold out and the buzz around NASCAR’s first appearance at the Bluegrass State track is sky high. Now the question is what kind of racing will the 1.5-mile track produce? 

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Since: Nov 23, 2006
Posted on: July 3, 2011 11:06 pm

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

Beyond how boring the race was and others too since they started this ridiculous two car thing, is just basically how stupid it looks.  It is not racing, it is just some dumb show they put on.  I am the first to say I am not a true blue NASCAR fan but if I were I think I would just be embarrassed by this and even more by the last few laps.  I watched all the wrecks and I just sat and shook my head and laughed.  This is racing?  No, it is a circus act. I am sure NASCAR loves it because apparently the majority of the fans do so that is why it continues but really now if you are a NASCAR fan don't you feel just a little queasy supporting this kind of thing?  Just wondering.

Since: Sep 24, 2006
Posted on: July 3, 2011 9:58 pm

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

Well said Pete. Terribly boring racing. The big question is, did Jr set the guiness book of world records for using the term "y'all" in one paragraph?

Since: Nov 20, 2007
Posted on: July 3, 2011 3:34 pm

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

Restrictor plate racing, in any form, isn't real racing.  Whether it be in 2 car tandems or a big 35+ car pack.  That's just my take on it.  As for the caution being called when Jeff Gordon spun and collected it, this is where I have an issue.  NASCAR didn't need to throw a caution for that.  The night before, in the Nationwide race, they called a caution for even less of a spin.  I guess it was for smoke being seen between the cars.  Back to the Cup race though.  If NASCAR had left the race green after Gordon collected it, there was indeed still a chance for a wreck and I know that. By calling a caution and guaranteeing a Green-White-Checker finish, NASCAR, about 99%, guaranteed carnage at the end of the race.  Instead we got 2 GWC's and got 2 episodes of carnage.  That's much more unsafe to the drivers, then calling a caution after Gordon spun and collected.  No one was in danger because of the 24's spin.

I said this to a friend last night and will say it here.  Though I am a realist and know none of what I suggest, will ever happen.

The cars are safer than ever.  The drivers all wear a HANS device(thankly, biggest thing for safety).  The tracks all have SAFER barriers(after Indy put them in for 2002).

So it's time to do the following:  time to go back to racing to the line(after a caution flies), eliminate the yellow line rules at Dega and Daytona, go back to races ending at their prescribed distance which means ending the practice of any Green-White-Checkered disaster, and lastly and most importantly, NASCAR needs to go back to officiating races where it was tough to get a yellow flag.

We have not seen a caution free race since October 2002 and that was at Dega of all places.  I am sure we won't ever see another caution free race in our lifetimes because even now the yellow flags and green flag restarts are sponsored.  Sad. 

Since: Nov 30, 2008
Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:07 pm

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

Not much else to say that Pete P. and my friend Fear88 didn't say, Back in Dec.2010 I was planning my annual trip to Talladega during the chase and saving up for tailgating BBQ's and a great time and the race. But my friends and I after the Daytona 500 and the finish of the first Dega race and the results of push racing, we will spend our money somewhere else. Pushing diminishes the spirit and meaning of racing. If Nascar wants to fix this have them give me a call, I am not hard to find, I could fix this with one test session. Go back and watch Daytona and Dega racing from 1972 till about 1990 and watch and learn. Spikes.

Since: Dec 18, 2007
Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:01 pm

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

Gotta agree with you Pete. Its pretty damm boring.

Since: May 18, 2011
Posted on: July 3, 2011 10:48 am

Speed Read: Coke Zero 400

I'll agree with you here Pete.  This two-car tandem isn't racing at all.  It's been aptly named "pushing" by our friend Spikes, and thats a great way to describe it.  There is no racing element to it.  The half that field that are the second car in the pair on the last lap have absolutely no shot at winning the race.  And when someone loses a partner, all common sense seems to go out the window as they weave around trying to find another car to run with.  At least with the drafting of old, you could control your own destiny and make your own moves.  Like Jr. said post-race, you can't make any moves coming to the finish, you're just stuck behind another car and praying you don't get in a wreck.  This two-car tandem crap needs to go away fast, hopefully at the latest by the time the new car design is unvailed for the 2013 season. 

Jimmie had the best idea for combating this dumb pushing deal, tweeting that the four HMS car should just run half throttle four-wide the whole race, no one would be able to get passed them lol

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