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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Answer For The “Two Car Tango” Conundrum

Much hoopla was made in February, both leading up to and after the Daytona 500, that the two car tandem racing made for odd racing at best. As is usual for NASCAR, with more crashing and a new sight to see came some fan interest, virtually locking in the two car racing for the rest of the season.

As most people know, the last few years NASCAR has taken some lumps on the chin for chasing public opinion a bit too much. Many fans were not happy with the changes to adopt the “Chase” in 2004, and even less were pleased with either the “COT” or the new points system. That doesn’t even count the numerous cases when people felt NASCAR had thrown late race cautions possibly to tighten the field for a better finish.

These contentions have been around for years, but NASCAR has erred on the side of competition in the past as well. In the 90’s NASCAR had to make changes to spoiler heights and angles, front air dams, and more on a seemingly weekly basis. It seemed as though most drivers and teams were complaining about horsepower and aero disadvantages from one make to the other on an unending basis. Therefore NASCAR went to the single body, the predecessor to the current car, so that competition was placed squarely in the driver’s seat. Funny, now, at four races, competition is placed squarely in the contact area between front and rear bumpers.

The argument by some, like Mr. Pete Pistone at CBS, that the two car tandems are more luck driven than the previous drafts is a little much, but they do have an argument. At least with the 30 car drafts you had competition throughout the race. Saturday night’s race saw 20 or more of the best cars sitting at the back waiting for later in the race, in some cases too late.

Ratings or not, NASCAR has to know that this form of racing is less conducive to showing off talent and more conducive to luck, wrecks, and team orders. If NASCAR wants its wins to be decided by which teammate’s turn it is, then congratulations.

As Mr. Pistone so eloquently pointed out, answers to the question of how to change the racing are hard to come by. NASCAR has made it plain that they will not allow the cars to go much faster, so restrictor plates are here to stay. Although getting rid of the large packs may not be easy, breaking up the two car tandems may. NASCAR has tried a few things to do so, like changing the front air opening and lowering the max pressure on the cooling system. Both of these solutions made the engine makers nervous, but did nothing to the driver. Perhaps if the style of racing weren’t as easy for the drivers they would choose not to “link up.”

Perhaps NASCAR should look at changing the body specifications for either the front bumper or rear bumper, or both. If changes were made to both, making them more rounded, they would not be able to stay in contact as easily. Bump drafting would still occur, but for shorter distances. NASCAR could also slant the bottom of the rear bumper inward slightly, which would make the rear bumper lift more. I’m sure the drivers would hate that and the owners would definitely be unappreciative of the wrecked cars that would be pulled off the track during practice.

Either way, if the drivers feel they do not need to stay linked up to one partner, they will be much more likely to drive to win, not simply push for second and hope they don’t wreck.

Of course, all of this would be changed if the restrictor plates were gone. If the cars were running speeds around 210, handling would be too tough to “tango” and three wide drafts of 30 cars would only happen once. But safety is the big concern. I mean, there are no other leagues that drive that fast.

Wait… Maybe there are no other cars driving that fast that are as safe as NASCAR’s cars.
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