Return to Daytona: Two-Car Draft Providing Superspeedways Identity, Excitement [VIDEO]

In the aftermath of being unfortunately bounced from Talladega after Kyle Busch pounded his front fender, Matt Kenseth had a few choice words for the two-car draft dynamic that has emerged on the superspeedways in 2011. (Video of both the wreck and comments here)

These comments came after Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the sport’s most popular human and the driver who fared best Sunday – hammered the format in the press this week:

“I don’t really like the two-car stuff,” Earnhardt said Saturday before qualifying fourth for the Aaron’s 499. “It’s uh … just silly.

“I’m hoping this kind of racing goes away fast, so we don’t have to talk about this no more. This is a bunch of crap.”

The truth of the two-car draft is this: it is damn exciting for the viewer.  As they debate on whether the drama is “maufactured” and while drivers continue to complain, it can’t be argued that what took place over the final two laps at Dega Sunday was bad for the sport.  (No drivers complained about the race action at Texas, as Matt Kenseth faced no serious threat over the final 20 laps and remote controls around the country clicked to the 10 other sports events Saturday night offered.)

The superspeedways are all about history, as Daytona and Talladega are to stock car racing what Vatican City is to the Catholics.  They are about history and tradition – which is more than enough to bring the long-time fans to the table but not nearly enough to keep the newbie fan around.  NASCAR’s long-time faithful will tell you they don’t care about the newbie but the sport’s officials – facing dwindling attendance and TV ratings – know they must continue to create a competitive product or face returning to the depths of being “a regional sport”.

And the two-car draft gives these races identity.  What was the identity of ‘Dega aside from the Will Ferrell picture and big wrecks?  What is the identity of Daytona at all, aside from being told how important it is every February?  The two-car draft creates strategic options that no other race does.  The two-car draft provides some fascinating inter-team radio communication.  The two-car draft means that a dozen drivers or more will have a chance to win with ten laps to go.  And most importantly the two-car draft leads to (at the least) two cars, head-to-head, at the finish line.  Does the two-car draft manufacture drama?  Absolutely.  And I’ll take that drama over the single-file parades that used to plague ‘Dega for hours at a time any day.

The drivers complained about double-file restarts and after ten races, the amount of incidents off the restarts dwindled as the comfort level increased.  The same will be true of the two-car draft restrictor plate races.  Drivers will get comfortable as the brilliant competition level remains.  And the television viewer will know that the last five laps at any NASCAR superspeedway is must-watch television.

  • Christopher Luke

    Agree with Dale, such kind of races should go away fast, there is no excitement in watching these.

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