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NASCAR Misses Boat Again, Rules Will not Prevent Tandem Drafting

January 12th, 2014 at 2:21 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

It's been an interesting week at Daytona International Speedway as both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the NASCAR Nationwide Series tested at the speedway in preparation for Speedweeks 2014. There were a lot of things to dissect at the tests and while the testing was very interesting it doesn't oversight the announcement NASCAR made on Saturday. 

NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton announced that NASCAR has outlawed tandem racing at Daytona and Talladega in 2014. NASCAR has lowered the spoiler on the Nationwide Series cars and have made engine cooling rules that would make it virtual impossible to tandem draft. Along with the spoiler and the engine cooling rules NASCAR has also issued drivers an edict to not tandem draft. NASCAR also said that the teams will not be allowed to tandem draft for more than one lap. 

The new rules have been put into place after the accident at Daytona International Speedway in 2013 where Kyle Larson's Chevrolet went into the catch fence and debris flew into the stands causing several fans to get hurt in the process. There's no doubt that the tandem draft helped cause Larson's car to get into the stands. You can understand why NASCAR would want to end tandem drafting as far as safety is concerned. With the pushing car not being able to see in front of them, they are on the throttle when a wreck occurs. The immediate reaction to slow down when an accident occurs is not there and there for a driver goes full speed into an accident, causing a bigger, nastier wreck. 

If you dissect what happened with the Larson accident it was a strict product of the tandem draft. Regan Smith was leading off of turn four after a tandem draft with Brad Keselowski got he and Keselowski to a huge lead. Keselowski tried to pass Smith off turn four and Smith went up to block. Smith's move caused a big accident which resulted in Larson's car going up into the catch fence. Larson's car was hit by several other cars prior to going into the catch fence, some of the cars could not see out of their windshields because they were pushing other cars at the end. 

While the new rules will help during the race I can guarantee you that at the end of the race teams will push draft. When the white flag drops teams will tandem draft. There is no way NASCAR will black flag a driver and a team on the last lap nor will they take a win away. They never have. 

'Daytona 5' photo (c) 2007, Abir Anwar - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

To me, that's not fixing the problem. Larson's wreck probably would have happened had this rule been in place or not. What NASCAR has created is a lot of grey area and a lot headaches for really nothing. If NASCAR is trying to eliminate tandem drafting because of safety issues are the new rules really doing that?

Not only that but with the engine cooling systems that NASCAR will put in these cars sure teams and drivers won't tandem for the majority of the race. The drivers will try and keep their engines cool by running single file. With that and the fear of being black flagged for tandem racing, the drivers will do what we saw the Sprint Cup Series drivers do back in 2009 at Talladega when NASCAR put in a similar rule. What drivers did that afternoon and what drivers will do on Saturday for the Nationwide race at Daytona is they will run single-file for the majority of the race. With the spontaneity of tandem drafting teams need very little time to get to the front. With that I believe we'll see a horrendous race at Daytona for most of the day.

There is also a lot of grey area in the rule. Even if drivers do try to tandem during the race how is NASCAR going to police it. Is there going to be an imaginary line for each tandem draft and when they pass that line they get black flagged? Is NASCAR going to hire more people to police the race? NASCAR has their hands full during a regular race, trying to spot debris, figuring out scoring and other things so adding this into a race could be a disaster. Fans will be screaming and if a certain driver gets black flagged. They would throw debris all over the place and it would be a disaster. 

NASCAR is asking for trouble with these tandem rules. Again I understand what they're trying to do as far as safety is concerned. They need to do something but these rules are not going to fix anything. What NASCAR needs, and this is an extreme measure, is a new racecar in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. NASCAR needs to create a car where the bumpers don't line up and these cars can't push draft through the corners without crashing. That would solve all the issues. 

There's no doubt that measure would cost Nationwide teams a lot of money and that could be why NASCAR is hesitant to make such a decision. However, without a new car we will be dealing with the disaster that is NASCAR trying to police tandem racing. 

Tags: Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Larson, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Nationwide Series

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