Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

Posted on: July 5, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 11:15 am
By Pete Pistone

  David Ragan, Driver Of The #6 UPS Ford, And Matt Kenseth, Driver Of The #17 Affliction Clothing: Live Fast Ford,

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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Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: July 6, 2011 9:35 pm

Can't believe no one's thought of this...

Can't believe no one's thought of this but frankly there is a very easy answer to this whole problem. Change the rules regarding weight distribution and rear end height for the restrictor plate tracks. If the rear end was a few inches higher you'd no longer be able to get away with bump drafting through the corners- as with the old car, you'd get under the rear end and start turning people around. The higher height would also help give the cars a greater amount of downforce, making the drivers feel more secure with what they're driving... and a secure driver is one more apt to drive aggressively. 

You'd still have drafting, especially given the size of the hole in the air the raised rear end would create. And a minor height adjustment would still allow for bump drafting down the straightaways, something that isn't going away when the cars are so evenly matched in terms of horsepower (as a result of the plates). But there's no way you could bump someone all the way around the track without sending them into the wall when you got to the corner.


Since: Jul 6, 2011
Posted on: July 6, 2011 8:01 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

BORING..... Used to go to Talladega for twenty yrs straight... was in aww of the fact that they drove that well... that fast... for that long...When you were in the towers, and they came around turns three and four... it was incrediable.... Now .. I wouldnt go if it were free.... tried to watch at home but.. the way they started... tandems.. is the way it finished.. couldnt leave your guy... the lead changes are deceiving... which two get a run thet lap... then next lap.. the other two get their run... garbage!!! give me evryone for himself.. old school drafting... dont change the racing style... go back to the right cars... fix them... But stubborn nascar... wont do the right thing... so watch the stands go empty.. and the 30 people I went with.. do the same..start to turn it off... Later nascar.. until you change the product... It also wasnt smart of them to let the corp. that took over in the early 2000s to not let you bring in coolers... raise prices in the stands... where did that get you... LESS FANS!

Since: Mar 8, 2009
Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:48 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

I agree with pittisfit43 on this one!! You can't make everyone happy!! I live in Alabama and have been to Dega 8 straight years and even in those races after the first 10-20 laps all the good drivers all dropped to the back and you could take a nap til someone screwed up and caused the big one taking out half the field!! I just not sure what Nascar can do!! The drivers hated the old racing as well!! As far as for ancrmn's post WHERE are you going to these races at,haha!! Been to 3 races this year( Dega,Bristol and Charlotte) and took in coolers for every race and never paid more than 45 dollars a ticket(bristol) for any of them!! Bristol allowed the smallest cooler but was big enough for my booze and food!! Anyway as I stated i can take the 2 car tandem or leave it but it seems I am in the minority so I hope Nascar can figure it out!! 

Since: Aug 16, 2010
Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:47 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

I have to agree that NASCAR has done an exceptional job with safety issues. And I agree that the smaller spoiler makes the cars more squirrely and it takes some good and careful driving. But how safe is this tandem racing where the trailing driver is running at these speeds without a line of sight ahead of him? This is going to lead to some serious accident and someone will get hurt or worse. While NASCAR is very safety minded it sometimes takes an awful incident to happen for them to react. They have made the cars easier to drive and that has lead them to include drivers that don't necessarily belong racing at this level. If they make the spoiler smaller maybe they should also cut back on the number of cars that are in the race as well. There are 2 other circuits these drivers can race in. There is no need to include anyone and everyone in these races. When they do that they are lowering the quality of racing for this level of NASCAR on these tracks. There are still short tracks and road courses that everyone can participate in. My point being the spoiler is the problem here and until they figure a way to make the aerodynamics different this is what we will get and good driving and good racing will suffer. Just saying.

Since: Jan 7, 2008
Posted on: July 6, 2011 2:42 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

I agree, thats why I have not paid to see a professional game in 20 years. There was a time when Nascar allowed coolers and you could bring your drinks and food, thus you didn't think twice about paying the high price for tickets, not to mention the racing was much much better then in the last 10 years. Now they throw restrictions on you like no smoking in an open air venue, no coolers, and expensive food and drinks plus raising the price to get in. The parking areas you get scalped  paying up to $100.00 to park a car depending on how close you get to the track. Poor traffic management as it takes upwards of two to three hours just to get away from the track. they are racing in my home state Saturday in Ky and they sold out. Give it 3 or 4 years and the fans will be tired of paying the outrageous prices to view a race in person. With this being the first race in Ky they are going to sell out. The first Bush race at Ky sold out  , however the last couple of Nationwide races did not.  I understand that thing change and have to change , but right now Nascar is headed in the wrong direction and they really don't get it!

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: July 6, 2011 2:04 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

bornphila - the major concern with shrinking the spoiler, while it's true that it would affect the air flow, it would also make the cars much harder to drive at the tracks were the speeds are as high as they are at Daytona and Dega and that's when/where you expose the safety issue.  I'm all for making changes to allow for better racing, but I have to side with NASCAR in the sense of putting safety first.

Since: Aug 16, 2010
Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:44 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

The solution to the 2 car tandem problem is not the restrictor plate as much as it is the huge spoiler they have gone to. This big spoiler makes a hole in the air that is big enough for only one car. One car tucked in behind that spoiler has no air resistance but a third car does and is left behind. When the spoilers were smaller the hole wasn't even one car big so a group of cars were drafting and made the group as a whole faster by using air flows not air holes. Remember the sling shot move? Can't do that now because the big spoiler only makes a hole that a second car car use. So while the restrictor plate slows them down a smaller spoiler would make drivers truly draft and not just tuck in and push. Lets get rid of the huge spoiler and make drivers drive.

Since: Aug 17, 2006
Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:39 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

nothing like piggyback riding.i been watching racing along time.but,this sucks.

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:33 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

I sort of agree with what said.  Since the teams have a slightly different engine program in place for the restrictor plate engine, then why not force the teams to run a smaller engine at the tracks that require a plate.  The cost would end up balancing out and we as fans may see a better product. 

I think NASCAR likes having the 'plate' races, it's a niche for them.  The impression that NASCAR gives the driver's and the fan's, is that they are just supposed to accept that it's a plate race, and this is the way that it's done.  NASCAR likes Daytona & Talladega, and the idea of having 'plate' races, because it offers up variety.  NASCAR is the only racing product that can brag about there being 4 plate races, 6 short track races, 2 road course races, and more cookie cutter snooze fest races than any other form of racing.

Since: Sep 12, 2006
Posted on: July 6, 2011 12:38 pm

Idle Thoughts: Tandem racing debate continues

You can't deny the fact that the tandem racing has produced incredible finishes this year.  From Bayne taking the 500 over a charging Edwards, to JJ's last second pass, to Ragan hanging on while cars wrecked behind him, the finishes have been as good as ever.  I hated the tandems at first, but they provide me everything I want in a restrictor plate race: big wrecks and great finishes.  The real problem is that more drivers are chilling in the back and instead we are seeing the likes of Nemecheck and Mears running near the front.  Then Mr. Dale Jr. cries after the race saying that he couldn't get to the front when it was his fault he didn't want to race until the end.

At the 500 for example, in pack racing, the first 50 miles are great, the next 400 are a long, boring train of single file cars, and the last 50 are great.  In the tandems, the first 450 miles are more interesting than the single file train, the last 50 are great but not as cool as watching 4 wide racing for 20 laps.  I wish NASCAR could do something to give bonus points or money at restrictor plate races for being near the front early in the race to prevent half the field from sitting out back for 450 miles. 

Both methods provide great finishes and boring in between stuff.

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