Sunday, January 12, 2014

NASCAR Learns Nothing and Does Something

NASCAR proved anew it learns nothing while doing something when it announced it will outright ban tandem drafting for Speedweeks.   "If your bumpers lock up, you are going to get black flagged," said Busch Series Director Wayne Auton.   "That's going to be the rule, and we're going to stick with it."

Of course that's never been how NASCAR does things, as officiating that ignores what the rules ostensibly say has never been a rarity (see Dale Junior's "illegal" pass on the apron at Talladega in 2003 among many examples over the years) and it is one of the major issues people have with the sanctioning body - the favoritism periodically shown.   Of course there has always been the "It" List by the France family toward certain participants, such as Harry Hyde, the Woods, Hoss Ellington, Gary Nelson, the Elliotts, and the Pettys.   Given the difficulties in sports officiating it overall has worked out well but still has needed addressing.

Apart from all that, the whole opposition to tandem drafting stopped making sense once one became used to the practice.   Moreover, the big negative that existed with tandem drafting - the push-car obstinately refusing to pass the leader once a tandem got in the clear - has been disappearing as the practice has evolved.  The Truck 250 at Talladega last October was one of the most amazing races in years and it showcased how tandem drafting has been evolving - a tandem would take the lead, then the push-vehicle would bail out and pass the leader, plus conventional drafts were able to regroup and catch up to tandems.  

Tandem drafting is the strongest power to pass racing has ever seen; not only have lead changes skyrocketed with the tandems, they have allowed gigantic comeback runs for drivers - no longer is losing the lead draft a race-ender; with tandems two cars would be half a lap back and in a few laps had taken the lead. 

Banning the tandems has no reason other than NASCAR's fundamental problem that it can't bring itself to understand when to leave things alone.   Meddling simply doesn't work, in life or sports, yet NASCAR has a ridiculous disease of feeling the need to meddle instead of letting the competitors compete.   This meddlesome disease explains the absurd rules the sanctioning body has - closing pit road when the yellow comes out, "speed limits" that are justified in the name of safety that ignore the lack of excessive risk of pre-1989 pit rules, "out of bounds" lanes on restrictor plate tracks (and tellingly nowhere else), and deciding running orders by arbitrary scoring loops instead of the start-finish line, thus giving the officiating tower more control that is warranted over the racing.  

NASCAR continues to learn nothing while it does something.   It needs to be the other way around for a change.

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