Sunday, June 08, 2014
1987 Daytona 500
Looking back at the 1987 Daytona 500. The racing, while not as competitive as earlier (such as 1971, 1974, 1976, and 1983) and later (notably 1993, 1996, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2014) 500s, nonetheless is pretty good, and the cars for the most part are better looking than today's - Elliott's Thunderbird, Benny Parsons in Tim Richmond's Monte Carlo (renumbered 35 here), and Richard Petty's Pontiac 2+2 are handsomer racecars than today's sedans.
Of particular interest is the segment at 1:47:00 of this package - Dave Despain shows how the draft has largely disappeared from the racing and thus made passing more difficult. The draft had been effective even on intermediate tracks like Charlotte and Atlanta as well as flat big tracks like Pocono, Michigan, and the by-then-shuttered Ontario track. The disappearance of the draft combined with later switchover to radial tires from bias-plies all but eliminated passing - and the effects of both continue to be felt; one need only contrast the 2014 Indianapolis 500 with NASCAR's Pocono 400 held earlier today as this is written. The draft needs to be returned because that's where the most passing happens.
These cars in this 1987 period would have also benefitted from the roof blade NASCAR ran on and off 2000-10 - not only for a stronger draft but also to plant the nose of the cars onto the ground, as they had a problem of pushing.