Are drivers starting to turn against the rule changes to limit tandem drafting at Daytona and Talladega?
It's a question worth asking following another disappointing race where the NASCAR-approved catchphrase "The Pack Is Back" was brought out. The 2012 Winston 500 saw some excellent racing, with several lengthy periods where the leaders raced nose to nose for multiple laps. But it simply didn't live up to the tradition of Talladega - and didn't even live up to the Saturday Aarons 312; the 500 saw 34 lead changes, the 312 broke 37 - because NASCAR's changes to radiators and spoilers took away most of the passing and left the drivers having to breathe the cars instead of race.
It's worth noting Jeff Gordon's post-crash comments where he talked about liking to push people to pass and also said "we're borderline too conservative" in the racing. With everyone having to run hot all day, it took away from passing - and in the end the tandem drafts began coming out more frequently as the race went on, with the final pass coming - you guessed it - because of tandem drafting.
That the tandems are starting to get back to the front shouldn't surprise anyone because tandem drafting remains a power to pass too powerful to be defeated. All NASCAR has done is gotten in the way of passing, and this is what fools do. Racing is about passing and nothing is ever supposed to get in the way of passing.
NASCAR needs to get the message - Sack The Pack. Give us back the tandem drafts; give us back the lead changes the tandems produced.
The "Pack Is Back" catchphrase has become an embarrassment, but a greater embarrassment is the hype before the race that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would break through to the win. That Junior has posted enough top-tens to be third in points so far is surprising, but even in his runner-up finishes he showed he doesn't have the moxie to take the win.
For that matter Hendrick Motorsports as an organization suddenly doesn't look like something that can take the win, stuck on 199 wins and frankly looking outmuscled by Roush and the Toyotas. Jeff Gordon won the pole and looked mediocre once the race began. Jimmie Johnson's five straight titles look like a distant memory. Kasey Kahne looks horribly out of place with this organization.
Among the teams that got unexpected attention this weekend, the Richard Petty Motorsports group ran okay in the 500; Aric Almirola salvaged 12th but still looks lacking in the fight needed to seize the win; it's better than it was but going for the lead is a requirement before he can be taken seriously as a racer.
There was also continuation of engine and fuel problems, with NASCAR's EFI experiment again seeming to get in the way with grossly untoward issues hitting more than enough teams to warrant continued concern.
The bottom line was thus that Talladega produced some excellent racing but Brian France got in the way, and he needs to get out of the way.