Driving Today

NASCAR Attacks Doubles Competition … Again

Fans hate two-car team-ups on the superspeedways, so NASCAR is taking another shot at ending the pra...

If you don’t want people to do something, maybe you should just outlaw it. Our various branches of government try that all the time with varying levels of success. It does seem to limit the number of kidnappings and bank robberies we experience, but perhaps it does less to limit drug use (as witnessed in our column last week). Say what you will about edicts; you can certainly make the case that NASCAR is stronger than the government when it comes to wielding power over its racers, which is why NASCAR’s quest to rid itself of the two-man-bobsled-style of racing we have recently witnessed at the superspeedways of Talladega and Daytona have prompted us to scratch our heads. If NASCAR doesn’t like that style of racing -- and we can understand the feeling because we hate it -- one has to wonder why they don’t simply make it illegal. But, as all of us who follow the sport know, our friends at NASCAR don’t always do things the simple way.

Instead of banning the technique of having one competitor essentially push another in nose-to-tail fashion, NASCAR is trying to eliminate it by making it undesirable from a competitive point of view. Previously, it has instituted a change in the superspeedway restrictor plate designed to make the cars faster and, in theory, to lessen the benefits of the nose-to-tail technique. Ditto for a change in the cooling system pop-off valve. There, the theory was that running in tandem would more quickly cause the tail-end car to overheat, and what driver wants that? But to NASCAR’s (and its fans’) dismay, the changes did almost nothing to diminish the tandem team-ups.

So tomorrow, NASCAR is making another attempt to figure it all out. It has scheduled a test at Daytona that will examine various combinations of restrictor plates and rear spoilers. The latest thinking is that a smaller spoiler might accomplish what the other changes failed to accomplish, namely making tandem running a thing of the past at major speedways. Of course a side effect of a smaller spoiler might be more instability, since the spoiler is designed to provide downforce to plant the rear tires more firmly on the pavement. A key reason for the test is to make certain that the proposed change doesn’t negatively affect safety. We hate nose-to-tail racing, but we hate injuries to drivers a lot more, which is why we don’t understand why NASCAR doesn’t simply ban tandem running. If two-car nose-to-tail racing prompted a drive-through or other penalty, you can bet it would end pronto.



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