June 27, 2011
By Matthew Pizzolato
With next weekend's race at Daytona looming, its time for drivers to find a racing partner. Like it or not, the days of the entire field racing together in one huge pack are over with, at least for now.
While some people like the new form of restrictor plate racing, the vast majority don't. And that includes most of the drivers. NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is not a fan.
“I don’t enjoy the two-car draft because when I push somebody I can’t see around him. And I would like to be in control of my own destiny all the time; be in control and be able to win the race," Earnhardt said at a press conference at Sonoma. "I was happy to push Jimmie (Johnson) to the win (at Talladega) but in a perfect world, me and him both would rather just be racing our own cars and not have to worry about being obligated to push anyone to the win. You want to drive your own car across the finish line and that’s the way it ought to be.”
"I thought it was a lottery five years ago (but) good Lord, its ridiculous now.”
The two-car tandem takes any aspect of racing out of the equation. What used to be a race is now a high speed game of follow the leader. If the trailing car in the duo tries to pass the car in front, another set of cars will blow past them. As Earnhardt said, the pushing car is obligated to the one in front of it. If a driver isn't lucky enough to be the car out front, then he has absolutely no chance of winning the race.
At a recent press conference at Sonoma, Jeff Gordon was asked what the biggest difference was with the new style of racing versus the old.
“Just the bump drafting. That you can push all the way around the race track now. I think when we go back to Daytona, it will be about the temperature, the track and whether the grip has gone away at all and whether we can still do that. I’m expecting us to be able to do that so it’s going to be about finding a partner, a drafting partner to work with and me and Mark (Martin) obviously worked well together at Talladega so we’ll have to look at maybe going that same route for Daytona.”
While most drivers openly dislike the two-car draft, Gordon has perhaps the most pragmatic approach to the new style of racing.
“You know it’s not really about whether you have an opinion or like it, it’s just the way it is. If you want to be good and have a shot at winning, then you have to learn how to do it well. You have to learn how to cool the engine and you’ve got to find somebody that you can stick with and they can stick with you all day to be there at the end to win the race.”
On one hand Gordon is right, but on the other, he is dead wrong. He might be there to win at the end but unless he is the lead car of the tandem headed toward the checkered flag, then he has absolutely no chance of winning the race.
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.