Two-car drafting puts pairs at the front, but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks
by Bran Strickland
Star sports editor
Apr 17, 2011 | 8935 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA — A few years back, something changed in restrictor-plate racing.

Since they strapped on the horsepower-robbing device, two cars had always been better than one. But suddenly two cars were better than three.

Or four. Or five, or number of the train of rolling billboards.

But as big as it had become at Talladega, stripping the title of buzzword away from bump drafting, it was never as big as it was at Daytona in February.

It definitely will be a big part of today’s Aaron’s 499, and Jeff Gordon is among those who believe it’s here to stay.

Still in somewhat infant stages, the two-car draft still doesn’t have a defined moniker. The practice has been called tandem draft, two-car tangos and love bug racing.

But at least the last name is cute, everything about the new rage isn’t all rosy.

While the hole the two cars can cut through the air and the power the second car can provide having less wind resistance, with the second car literally right on the lead car’s bumper, visibility for the second driver is a significant issue.

“You are literally 200 miles per hour blind — blind,” said Gordon, who will start today from the pole. “I might as well just close my eyes.”

Scary? “Hell, yeah,” Gordon added.

While visibility was an issue at Daytona too, it could even be a bigger issue at Talladega because of the 2.66-mile tri-oval’s surface, which is wider than its sister track.

“There’s now going to be five lanes of choices and you don’t know if you’re going to shoot for the middle hole or two-thirds of the way up or two-fifths of the way up,” Kurt Busch said. “With five lanes to choose from, you really have to trust the guy in front of you to guide you through the different holes and not close in too quickly and make an abrupt move.”

The best option for the trailing driver is to look through their windshield, through the two windshields of the lead car. And all the while you’re trying to look over the rear spoiler, only 4.5 inches tall, that little bit can make a big difference.

“You can’t really see through the rear glass of a guy’s car because the way the sun hits it, even if it’s a cloudy day, you might not be able to see all the way through it,” Kyle Busch said. You tend to try to look over the roof of a guy’s car through the corner and try to see what’s going to happen down the next straightaway.”

That puts a greater importance on who a driver pairs with. It’s become cliché to refer to the duo as dance partners, but the commitment is much more akin to a marriage, where trust comes into play more so than a night at the prom.

“That’s when you rely on either the guy in front of you to talk to you through going around guys or passing guys or you rely on your spotter,” Kyle said.

“If you have that guy in your radio and you’re pushing that guy, he should be the one on the radio. ‘OK, low, low, middle, middle, high, high — he kind of talks you to where you’re going to you can stay on him and not take a chance of spinning a guy out.”

Needless to say, being out front is best. But the slingshot that Kevin Harvick pulled off here proved in this race one year ago, for at least the last mile, it’s worth it to put up with all the headaches.

Harvick pulled off the perfect slingshot to get himself and Richard Childress racing into victory lane.

“I hope I’m the guy leading more so than the guy being pushed except on the last lap,” Gordon said. “I want to be the guy pushing on the last lap because I think the guy in the second is going to win.”

Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.

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