Editor's note: After Dale Earnhardt Jr. drew the pole for tonight's Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, he gave a few reporters quite the education on the two-car bump-draft and how he believes the Daytona races will be won.
Here's a transcript of what Earnhardt Jr.'s comments:
Q: How soon do you think drivers will link up into the two-car drafts?
First lap. I wouldn't be surprised at all. Guys are tuning their cars to where they're getting more comfortable putting their engines through that.
The most concern is the engines – cycling the motors in and out of temperatures like that. I think guys are getting a little more comfortable with that.
In the Shootout, it's possible to see guys push the envelope and see how much the engine can take.
Q: You practiced the exchange between the two cars a lot during practice.
Yeah, the exchange is important. It's real hard to get back to the guy in the lead when you get put into second place. The leader has to slow down to half throttle and brake to what feels like 60 mph to get the other car back up underneath him.
There's a beach ball effect (of an air pocket) between the two cars, and to be able to bust through that and get the car back up there, get the cars sealed up together and get going again, you've got to do that quick. It's kind of tough to do.
As the lead car, you've got to go completely out of your way to get the car behind you reattached. It's just taken everybody a little while to understand; you know, we're not used to lifting and giving up that much speed.
Q: Can you actually feel it when you break through that air bubble?
You can feel and you can see it visually. (The trailing car) will sort of be sitting there, and you have to brake-check, and he'll bust through the bubble and it sort of plugs him in.
Air is coming around the tail piece and it's also coming over the spoiler – he's got to get around that and get underneath it.
It's always been there, but the cars haven't been so slow that you can push each other all the way around the racetrack like you can now. It would be fast enough to where it would be too dangerous and you'd feel so out of control in the corner, we never did it.
Q: If NASCAR changes the restrictor plate to reduce speeds, how will that change the two-car draft?
Well, if they slow us down, we'll just be able to do this better. And it possibly could come a situation where even three or four cars could do it together.
If you slow the cars down, you make this easy. When the cars are just a little bit faster, you get into the corner and spin each other out.
We're almost in that position in Talladega. It's way easier to do (the two-car draft) here than in Talladega because of the speed. At Talladega, we almost wreck each other – as I've done to Burton last year – you can wreck each other bump-drafting in the corner.
But the plate is so small here that it's way easy. So easy. But in December when we were testing with (a bigger) plate, we tried to do that bump-draft shit, and it wouldn't work in the corner. We'd get in the corner and almost wreck – just that little bit (made the difference).
If you slow it down, it's not going to stop it.
Q: When is the last point where you'd want to switch places with someone during the race?
Well, what you want to do is push somebody until the last straightaway – then pass him. You don't want to pass him too early, because he'll be able to pass you back. Or if you pass him and don't let him get back to you, somebody (else) is going to run by you.
As soon as you pull out, his car is going to do 185 mph – that's as fast as his car can go with that plate. It goes 185 by itself, and if you pull out, that's (the speed) he's going to be doing in two football fields.
Q: So it's all about the slingshot move to win?
Absolutely. That's the whole thing. When you're in second, whenever you want to pass the guy, you can do it in 50 yards. You pull out, and he just stops – it just kills his car.
There's a 20 mph difference between how the cars run by themselves and how they run in the bump-draft. As soon as you pull out, you can just go right by him.
It's definitely best to be running second in a little two-car lock off of Turn 4 and (pass) somewhere between there and the flagstand. It's the same thing they were doing at Talladega last year.
Q: Is the two-car draft going to spoil the show?
I'm not sure. I think it's still dramatic. Ten two-car packs aren't as cool as one 20-car pack, no. But it's still going to be interesting, and everybody is going to be talking about the finish for weeks and weeks, no matter how it works out. It'll be good.