Most of us remember the lyrics of an old song that began with “One for the money, Two for the show” and that might have been the most appropriate song for what took place at Talladega on Sunday. After Sunday there is no doubt that the old days of large packs of cars racing at either of the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega are now nothing more than just a distant memory.
The fastest way around a restrictor plate now is the two-car draft. It may be racing in its simplest form as one car is glued to the rear bumper of another car and they stay that way as long as possible. The two cars work so well together that many of the drivers have already perfected the switch where the rear car, because of overheating concerns, trades places with the car in front and they continue on their way to the checkered flag.
Finding just the right driver to be on your bumper or the driver that on whose bumper you want to be is so important that the majority of the time that the teams use for practice during the weekend is used to find which cars draft best with yours. Once those cars are identified, it is just a matter of getting that driver’s radio frequency programmed to your radio so the two of you can talk to each other during the race. Some drivers took the green flag on Sunday with as many as 15 different drivers’ frequencies on their radio.
The two-car drafts were everywhere and it seemed that every time they came around to the start-finish line, there was another leader. There were 88 different lead changes on the day among 26 different drivers and when the checkered flag finally waved the difference between Jimmie Johnson in first and second-place Clint Bowyer was .002 seconds. That tied Ricky Craven’s Darlington win in 2003 as the closest finish since electronic timing began being used in the series.
The debate on whether or not the two-by-two racing is good for the series will continue until July 2 when the series rolls back into Daytona for the running of the Coke Zero 400. Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag and the money that went with winning, but it was the two-by-two racing that stole the show as fans were witness to one of the most competitive races in recent seasons.
Racing with restrictor plates has done what it was intended and that is to slow the cars down, but crew chiefs, crews and drivers are paid to find out the fastest way around a track. That way just happens to be two-by-two racing that also puts the fans at the track on their feet and the fans at home glued to their TV sets.
TALLADEGA TIDBITS: Jeff Gordon’s pole-winning qualifying run was the 70th of his career, but more impressive was that it also kept his streak alive of 19 consecutive seasons of winning at least one pole —one pole for every season he has competed in the Sprint Cup Series. His pole-qualifying effort helped make some history as his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates swept the next three spots. Jimmie Johnson started on the outside pole in second followed by teammates Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., making it the third time that four cars from the same organization swept the top-four spots. High tech racing took another weird twist on Sunday when a couple of teams used Pam nonstick spray, that is used in cooking, to coat their rear bumpers. The extremely slick spray that keeps food from sticking when it is being cooked apparently is the ideal material to use on rear bumpers to keep the front bumper of the car doing the pushing from dislodging the rear bumper.
OLD SCHOOL RACING: The June 5 Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway will feature the return of STP to the series as it will be sponsoring the race that will be called the STP 400. It will also mark the return of STP to Richard Petty Motorsports as Petty’s famous #43 will feature the same paint scheme that it used in 1972 when the company first sponsored Richard Petty in the sport using the colors of Petty Blue and STP’s Day-Glo-Red.
Race Preview Event: Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 Track: Richmond International Raceway (.750-mile oval with 14 degrees of banking in the turns) Date: April 30, 7:30 p.m. TV: FOX Radio: MRN Defending Champion: Kyle Busch