NASCAR “Push-Drafting” at Talladega from Just A Fans View

Rusty NormanDrafting… NASCAR fan’s have heard it talked about and known about it for a long time. If you’ve been a fan of NASCAR for any length of time, you probably remember when it was just called drafting? It seems the more they race at restrictor plate tracks that require the drivers to use it to be competitive, the more they come up with new ways of doing it and new names to describe it. (Uh, and they also go faster when they use the techniques, too.)

Early on, it was described as riding along in the draft, soon adapted to a term called freight-training and then the term “slingshot” began to be used to describe how a driver would use the draft to pass. Later on, to better describe the way the drivers raced each other to gain an advantage on the restrictor plate tracks in particular, terms were added to describe other facets of this thing called, “drafting.”

In case you’re new to NASCAR or just not familiar with some of the terms I’m talking about at the moment, let me mention a few. (I’m sure you’ve heard them mentioned at one time or another.) Bump-drafting, side-drafting and the newest addition would be, “push-drafting.” All of them describe a way the drivers have discovered to gain speed while racing on restrictor plate tracks, (or, at least where drafting comes into play), and they have proven time and again, it is almost impossible to win without using drafting to their advantage in one way or another.

When this new thing called “push-drafting” was first shown to work by Denny Hamlin and another driver a while back, many wondered what in the world they were doing. Since that time, it has proven to be one of the most important things to be used by the competitors at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. The interesting thing about it is it only works in groups of two. Anything else makes the cars go slower.

I find it interesting, that now, they have quickly adapted new ways of using this “push-drafting” process. They now have multiple channels on their radios so they can communicate with more than just their crew and teammates. Some have many channels to be able to communicate with many other drivers and some have a limited number so they won’t have to spend a lot of time finding different partners. (I guess you could say they don’t want to be distracted.) One thing I have noticed in listening to the drivers talking about the process, the responsibilities of the “pusher” and the “pushee” are different; Unless they both do their job, the result can be disastrous.

Just one more thing about the “push-draft.” It does require a lot trust between the two drivers that are hooked up together. The one in the front has to make sure he keeps the two cars together and he has to be the eyes. The one in back has to trust that the one in front makes all the right decisions, (that is, until they go for the checkered flag at the end of the race.) Most of the reason for that is they can’t see. All they can see is the spoiler in front of them.

As a fan, I noticed an interesting thing during qualifying. I know it was more of an optical illusion than anything else, but it just looked like like the cars were going so slow. Even at 170 plus miles per hour, when there is only one car on the track at a time, there is nothing to show how fast they are actually going and it is for certain there isn’t much action. Of course, all of us know that keeping the movement of the car down to a minimum so they don’t scrub off a lot of speed. The less movement the faster the qualifying time.

As I have said many times here on Just A Fan’s View, qualifying is more for pit selection than anything else at a restrictor plate race and, honestly, qualifying today at Talladega will tell us almost nothing about how the race will go on Sunday afternoon. More than anything else it will be decided by who hooks up with whom and how fast they go around the track together.

As a NASCAR fan, you know a restrictor plate race is one of the hardest to pick a winner in and this one will be no different. From this fans view, I know this will be one of the most stressful races the drivers have to face and with the “push-draft” it will be even more stressful than normal. They have more to think about and more possible distractions than they normally do in one of these type races. With the possible extra radio work there is always the chance the driver will have a good excuse because he causedS the “big one” even if they weren’t talking on the radio anyway…

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© April 16, 2011 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

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