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If there’s a slogan, of sorts, to come out of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, maybe it should be something like, “Drafting the way it used to be.” After several years of bump drafting and then a couple of years or so of two-car tandem drafting, pack drafting in which cars, for the most part, stay off each other’s bumpers looks to be back, if the testing, so far, at Daytona is any indication.
The whole two-car thing looked to be history when nearly 20 cars got together in a big draft during the Friday afternoon testing session at Daytona. As for bump drafting, or at least “pushing” — the most obvious example of that didn’t quite go well and several drivers and teams paid the price. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. tried to hook his Chevrolet up with the Ford of Marcos Ambrose, the result wasn’t pretty. Ambrose’s No. 9 was turned into the wall and a 12-car, chain reaction “big one” was set in motion.
“I was just going to give him (Ambrose) a push down the back straightaway and see if he could get the lead,” Earnhardt said. “I was trying to, eventually, get the lead, myself. We got off the back straightaway and were just kind of pushing him along there and our cars sort of just didn’t match up very well. I got him hooked into the fence. I pushed Martin (Truex Jr.) a little bit in his Toyota and they matched up good. The bumpers were good, didn’t have any problem with any of the cars. That is the first time I pushed a Ford.”
Sure, that kind of thing has happened no matter what form restrictor plate drafting has taken over the years, but in this case, it just seemed to be more of a sign that that kind of drafting just won’t work with NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car. After all, Ambrose pointed out later that Earnhardt’s generally pretty good at the whole drafting game.
Add to that the fact that several other drivers interviewed throughout the session commented that front bumpers and back bumpers on these new cars just don’t match up to well and they can’t push each other quite like they used to, and it looks like excessive pushing may be on its way out the door.
“It’s real hard to push, which could be a good thing,” Greg Biffle said.
Also consider this — other than Friday afternoon when Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin were the only two drivers trying out the draft, when else during the session, so far, has there been a two-car draft? I don’t recall and instance.
Just think of it as drafting the way it used to be.
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