Beeline: That’s right, it’s a NASCAR column so buckle up

Spinnaker

This Sunday the Daytona 500 saw a record number of cautions, resulting in the second longest race in its history. The 182,000 fans who gathered at the Daytona International Speedway sat through 16 cautions and 60 laps driven under caution. Just to put that in perspective, over a quarter of the race was under caution.This was almost all because the drivers have figured out a new style of drafting. The old style was to group up with a pack of cars and let them pull up your speed. Now, starting at Daytona, drivers are pairing up instead. A driver will get behind another and literally push the person in front of them, resulting in both of them going faster.

If you can’t find someone to team up with, you’ll be left behind. The problem with this new style of drafting, which has garnered names such as the “Daytona Tango,” “Tag-Team Drafting,” or “Love-bugging,” is it makes it to hard to see ahead of you or behind you, depending on which car you are in the pair.

If you are pushing you are at the mercy of the guy in front of you. You have to trust that they are leading you in the right direction. If you are being pushed, you have to trust that the person behind you won’t get out of position and spin you out.

It puts a very important emphasis on communication. Instead of just having radio communication between the pit and the other drivers on their team, drivers radio with whoever they are tagging up with.

Sunday, the communication wasn’t working. Because things happen so fast in NASCAR, when a driver in the front of a pair decides to make a move, he usually doesn’t give the driver pushing enough time to maneuver with him. This results in spinning out and crashing. The 53rd Great American Race saw 13 wrecks Sunday.

Michael Waltrip was involved in two of these wrecks. Both times he was pushing a driver who didn’t give him enough notice before making a move to the middle. The first time he spun out Kyle Busch. The second time was a little more costly. Waltrip spun out his Waltrip Racing teammate David Reutimann on the 29th lap, causing a 14-car wreck that ended the day for multiple drivers, including Waltrip and Reutimann.

Waltrip said he couldn’t have done anything different.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a chance at a story-book ending Sunday, the tenth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Senior’s death. On the 202nd lap — they had to go to overtime due to a caution — Earnhardt Jr. was running with the front of the pack and had the chance to make a move to win. Instead, another wreck took place in front of Earnhardt Jr. He tried to avoid it but got caught on his back-rear panel, sending him to the garage with six laps left in the race.

While this new nose-to-tail drafting is exciting, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. It’s no secret fans love the wrecks, but to what extent is NASCAR willing to go? It is extreme chaos out there. Half of the field was out of contention because of all of the wrecks. NASCAR can have excitement, especially in the final laps, without these crazy and dangerous styles of drafting. This might sound stupid, but I agree with Earnhardt Jr., who said they need to be going faster. They shouldn’t need to be pairing up like this to move up in the field. If NASCAR doesn’t change something, these drivers better buckle up cause it’s only going to get worse.