2011 Daytona 500: An Opinion On The Two-Car Drafts

As a NASCAR fan, there are really only two ways to view the new two-car hookups which will undoubtedly dominate Sunday's Daytona 500.

Your first option is you can hate it. You can get upset that the famous pack racing is gone, scream at your TV and make angry phone calls to NASCAR about how they've ruined the Daytona 500.

Your second option is you can accept it and deal with it. Some of you can even grow to like it, though only about one quarter of you say you do right now.

Let's be honest: In the interest of reason, Option No. 2 is your best bet. I say this because there is nothing – at least nothing reasonable – that can be done about the two-car tandems.

The two-car drafts are here. And they're not going anywhere.

You may think that stinks. I don't disagree with you. But what are you going to do about it?

Heck, what can NASCAR do about it? It's really not NASCAR's fault this time. Don't you remember the huge pothole in the track last year? It had to be repaved. Repaving it was the only smart thing that could be done there.

And once the track was repaved, the door was opened for drivers to expand upon what they'd learned the last few years at Talladega. Let the pushing begin.

Maybe NASCAR didn't anticipate the drivers had figured out just how long they could push. That may have been a mistake. But even if NASCAR had seen this coming, what could they do?

Could NASCAR ban the push-draft? No, they've tried that. Passing a rule outlawing pairs racing would leave NASCAR in the same predicament it saw at Talladega in October '09.

You probably remember that race because it may have been the worst restrictor-plate race ever. And it's what ultimately decided on "Boys, have at it" as the new drafting policy.

So passing a rule is not an option. How about changing something technical on the cars?

That hasn't seemed to work, either. NASCAR already tried to break up the two-car drafts by mandating a pop-off valve and shrinking the grille opening in hopes the cars would start to overheat sooner – therefore discouraging the drafting.

It maybe limited the number of paired-up laps to four or five at a time, but it didn't do much else.

What else can NASCAR do?

Until the track wears out and begins to lose its grip – making cars slip and slide through the corners like on the old surface – this is the kind of racing we'll see at both Daytona and Talladega.

Pack racing is gone, folks. And it's not coming back...at least for the next five years or so.

Obviously, that's not ideal. The four restrictor-plate races each season became must-watch events because the pack racing was so compelling. Each event left viewers perched on the edge of their seats, holding their breath for 500 miles.

The Big One. The drama of having 30 cars cross the finish line within one second of each other. The lottery-ball nature of the winners.

All gone.

And now? We have a bunch of cars running around attached to one another like mating dragonflies.

So it's not great. But as viewers, it's what we're all going to deal with for 500 miles on Sunday.

The biggest positive about the two-car drafts is that even if the final 30 or 40 laps are green (which is unlikely), we're guaranteed an interesting finish. At the last second, the pushing car will try and pull out, likely creating a side-by-side finish for the Daytona 500.

And memorable finishes are often what make a race, right?

Unfortunately, there will likely be portions of the 500 miles that are strung out and dotted with two-car pairings all over the track. To longtime NASCAR fans, that's ugly.

NASCAR would be wise not to offer "most lead changes ever" and other similar statistics as "proof" that the race is great. Viewers know what they see, and statistics aren't going to change many opinions if the racing isn't compelling.

On the other hand, it also won't do you or me or anyone else much good to throw a temper tantrum about how much the two-car tandems suck compared to the big packs.

Getting angry at NASCAR for the two-car drafts is like being mad at a racetrack for not having a dome over it in the event of a rain delay. These situations – whether a thunderstorm or the perfect storm that created two-car drafting – is beyond everyone's control.

So when you sit down to watch the 200 mph do-si-do of synchronized racing on Sunday, it's OK if you don't love it. But the reality is this is what we've got, and you might as well just deal with it along with the rest of us.

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