Blog Entry

Despite wrecks, drivers endorse return of packs

Posted on: February 18, 2012 11:40 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 9:26 am

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The pack is back.

And so were the wrecks.

Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout saw the return of pack racing that had been the norm at restrictor plate tracks like Daytona until the advent of the two car tandem, a style NASCAR claims a majority of fans detested.

So after spending the entire off-season trying to find a solution to break up the "love bug" racing including larger restrictor plates, smaller spoilers and cooling system changes, NASCAR hoped the old school packs would return.

They got their wish but it came with a major price in a 75-lap race that saw only a handful of cars finish without damage.

The Shootout is an "all-star" race but there weren't many stars still shining when the checkered flag finally flew over Kyle Busch's electrifying win over Tony Stewart.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick were just a few of the names who saw their nights end in the garage with battered race cars.

“Yeah, I think this is pretty much exactly like it was before the two-car tandem," said Kenseth. "This is kind of like what pack racing is, except we’re going quite a bit faster.  The car has quite a bit of grip and we’re going really fast, the closing rate is really fast, so it’s about what I expected.”  

Gordon, who led late in the going, was involved in one of the night's more spectacular crashes that sent him rolling down the front straightaway several times before finally ending up on his roof.

"I think that's the first time I've ever been upside down in twenty years," said Gordon. "It was wild and I can't say what we saw out there was completely unexpected. There was a lot of aggression and a lot of wild driving out there which is to be expected on a night like this when we have no points to deal with and just the goal of winning on our minds."

But despite the multitude of accidents that punctuated the night, the consensus from the garage was a positive one from drivers.

"It was definitely a lot more fun and you felt a lot more eager to be engaged in the race this way than in the two-car deal," said Stewart. "I actually had fun racing at Daytona again which I haven't had for a while, so I'm really, really appreciative to the work that NASCAR has done in the off-season and the test session and even after the test of the changes that they made to try to make it better for us out there.

"I don't know what the consensus is from everybody else, but I had more fun as a driver tonight than what we've had in the past."

Third place finisher Marcos Ambrose was also on board with being a fan of the return to the more traditional pack racing.

"I agree with Tony, what an incredible job NASCAR has done to get back to this style of racing," he said.  "I think all the drivers appreciate it and it’s definitely a lot more fun.  It’s more entertaining for the fans and more in control for the drivers.  Even though we crashed more tonight, you just feel like you’re in control of your own destiny a little more out there."

Even those drivers who didn't have positive results like Stewart or Ambrose were upbeat about the competition and also cognizant of the fact the exhibition Shootout is far from a points race, particularly next week's Daytona 500.

"This is the Bud Shootout," said pole sitter Martin Truex Jr., a victim of the race's carnage. "So the guys are gonna take a lot more chances than they will on Sunday. The racing was fund and it was a good show. I enjoyed myself."

So the competitors are for the most part happy. But what about the fans, the same ones NASCAR says to the tune of eighty percent "extremely disliked" the two car tandem based on surveys and fan councils? 

Whether the high speed demolition derby that was a by product of Saturday night's pack racing is an accepted replacement for the two car drafting phenomenon is now the question to be answered.

NASCAR is listening…..intently. 

More NASCAR coverage


Since: Aug 13, 2009
Posted on: February 19, 2012 2:48 pm

Myths About The Pack vs. The Superdraft

How did tandem drafting stifle driver talent? 

What we saw last night was the downside of this rules concept - contrary to what some people said, the tandem drafts didn't go away, and they were still faster than a conventional draft - the wildcard of this race was how chaotic the sidedrafts were.   The cars were too unstable and it helped lead to a mess of crashes.   It was also noticeably harder to pass and at times cars struggled to close up on each other.  

The more the drivers got used to the cars the more they tandem drafted.   Harvick said before the race that it would be won by the tandem draft - and that's what happened.

Since: Sep 6, 2011
Posted on: February 19, 2012 2:33 pm

loved it!

last night was the most exciting race i've watched since i started following nascar a few years ago ... i couldn't understand why everyone made such a big deal about daytona and talladega (sp) - i thought they were the most boring races ever because of the tandem racing ... quite boring!!! i'd lose interest quickly ... now, i realize the drivers won't go at it next week the way they did last night, but still, packs are better than "twosies" any race!! 

Since: Nov 12, 2008
Posted on: February 19, 2012 2:29 pm

Despite wrecks, drivers endorse return of packs

This is what racing is supposed to be...

Real driver talent will start to reappear now that piggy back draft crap is limited...  

Since: Dec 23, 2007
Posted on: February 19, 2012 11:49 am

Despite wrecks, drivers endorse return of packs

Pack racing.. you mean stock care racing...or a parade... all nascars needs is 42 more patricks.. then we all can stay home..

Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: February 19, 2012 9:06 am

NASCAR hoping Shootout a smashing success

You are gonna see a lot of drivers lay back for at least 150 laps in the Daytona 500.  The feeling has to be that if you can just finish the race you should get a top ten.

And this is why the 500 is not going to be as good as people think. There were only 50 laps tonight (first segment is a test for most of them since night practice was rained out). And really, only the last half of that was pretty good. 175 laps of no one going for it is going to be a good race? At least with the two-car tandems anyone and everyone felt they could make a run to the front. Lots of lead changes. Now it is back to the checkers or wreckers mentality, which sure, may be fun, but it is only fun for a piece. And might I add, the two-car tandem still works as it was how Shrub got to the front with Tony there at the end. Main benefit of pack racing: the slingshot is back. That was the downside to two-cars since the pusher would have almost 0 chance of winning.

Since: Jan 2, 2012
Posted on: February 19, 2012 6:59 am

NASCAR hoping Shootout a smashing success

a mashing sucess

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:45 am

NASCAR hoping Shootout a smashing success

You are gonna see a lot of drivers lay back for at least 150 laps in the Daytona 500.  The feeling has to be that if you can just finish the race you should get a top ten.

Since: Aug 22, 2010
Posted on: February 19, 2012 1:54 am

NASCAR hoping Shootout a smashing success

Is there even a doubt that is is better than the tandem baloney? The drivers had fun. The fans had fun. NASCAR did a great job listening to the fans to get pack racing back. There is no question at all about which is better. The Daytona 500 should be a roaring success at this rate.

Since: Nov 10, 2008
Posted on: February 19, 2012 12:06 am

Shootout a smashing success boyah it was

Welcome back the pack and one of the best races ive ever seen i can't wait for the 500

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or