My father had a strict rule – don’t complain about a perceived problem unless you have a solution.
With all due respect to my dear departed father there is definitely a problem right now in NASCAR but I have no earthly idea on how to fix it.
Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona was the latest example of what a mess restrictor plate racing has become. But short of tearing down the legendary Daytona and Talladega facilities there’s absolutely no answer on how to make things any different.
The combination of the next generation Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series cars with the new asphalt paving at the two biggest oval tracks on the schedule has given birth to a style of racing that is tough to warm up to.
There are some fans that actually like the two car tandems which have popped up in the last two years and enjoy watching two drivers run nose to tail as they rocket toward the front of the field.
Others despise the concept and long for the 30-car packs of cars stuck together in the draft that made for side-by-side racing from nearly start to finish.
Although the styles may differ the end result is basically they same – drivers have to draft with each other in order to stay in contention to win and once the checkered flag is in sight all hell breaks loose.
That was the same scenario that played out time and again at Daytona and Talladega before the two by two drafting arose in 2009. No doubt it will remain in place once the track surfaces wear out and the inevitable return of pack racing is the norm.
But tandem racing has created another issue for some fans who have seen the concept of teamwork go a bit too far for their liking.
One teammate pushing another rather than going for the win himself isn’t exactly selling the concept of what NASCAR racing is all about. However with the advent of pairs racing it’s impossible for one driver to go it alone so organizations have begun to dictate who shall push and who shall receive the benefit.
David Ragan could not have won last Saturday night without Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth literally pushing him across the finish line. Jimmie Johnson’s April win at Talladega would not have been possible unless Hendrick mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. provided the necessary push.
All well and fine for fans of Ragan and Johnson but Kenseth and Junior supporters weren’t too pleased with those plans.
These so-called team orders smack more of policies within Formula One racing than they do in NASCAR.
It’s certainly understandable why teams take such an approach. Kenseth already has two wins and seems assured a Chase berth so why not take advantage of the situation presented and help Ragan to victory lane, potentially pushing him to a Wild Card spot?
Even drivers tend to view the phenomenon differently depending on their vantage point.
For instance Kenseth was not a huge fan of two car drafting when he first got a taste earlier this year during Daytona’s Speedweeks.
“If you're the pusher, you can't see a thing and with going 207 miles an hour and pushing someone when you can't see, it's not a lot of fun," Kenseth said. "At the end there, I was the odd man out because I couldn't get with a group of two.
"Everybody was grouped up in twos, and if you can't get with one other car in a group, you're pretty much done and you're just gonna fall back."
However not surprisingly Kenseth saw things a bit differently last Saturday when he was able to assist Ragan to his first career checkered flag.
“Made it through the race unscathed,” Kenseth said with a smile of relief. “Made a plan with David, and we both did what it took to work, not necessarily for ourselves, but realizing that the two cars were like one car and we had to treat it like that.
“We both took care of each other's cars and the positions that we were in. We raced in front or in back of each other all night, every single lap of the whole race. Waited for each other after the pit stop. Did what it took to get the finish, so that feels good that the plan came together and worked out for us tonight.”
Fans and drivers will have one more chance to pick a side on this kind of racing and make a plan this season when the final plate race rolls around at Talladega come October.
There’s no reason to expect anything to be different than the first three restrictor plate affairs except for one small detail.
Talladega will be race number six of the Chase.
That could have a pretty big impact on teammates wanting to work together with one another.
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