Can we please have a moment of silence for the tandem draft?
On Sunday, NASCAR announced that tandem drafting would be outlawed in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series on restrictor plate tracks this season. If two cars or trucks try the tandem draft, they'll be subject to a penalty. That could be anything from a black flag to being dropped in the scoring order if it happens very late in a race.
"Well, we have the ability to just not score the lap or time penalty post-race," NASCAR VP of Competition Robin Pemberton said Sunday. "That's been there all along. I think you can remember far enough back, I believe a time penalty was imposed on maybe Ricky Rudd or somebody at Sears Point a long time ago, and so we have that ability.
"You know, the rule that -- the unwritten rule that you get three laps from getting a black flag, it really doesn't hold water. I mean, we only give them that, and that started back in the day when people a lot of times didn't even have radios. So that's just kind of -- it's the unwritten rule.
"But we expect teams that get the black flag to immediately obey the order from the tower, and we do have the ability to fix the scoring when it's over with."
Tandem drafting is the maneuver when two cars lined up bumper-to-bumper and the second car pushed the first car for increased speed. With the new Sprint Cup Series car the tandem draft was almost impossible to do with its uneven front and rear bumpers. But the practice was still possible in NASCAR's other two series, especially in the Nationwide Series.
Last year's Nationwide races turned into duels between groups of two at the front of the field. But three of the series' last four races at Daytona ended with crashes on the final lap including in last February's race. 33 fans were injured in that crash when Kyle Larson's car went flying into the catchfence.
And last fall's truck race at Talladega featured a nasty crash too. (Though we should also remember the inexplicable absence of SAFER barriers)
The danger of those crashes plays a big role in the abolition of the practice. But that abolition is something that's going to be incredibly hard to enforce.
Bump drafting will still be allowed. But what's going to be the difference between a bump and a push? Multiple seconds? Thousands of feet? With the need to watch the entire field every lap and the high speeds of the cars, an ironclad time or distance rule is almost impossible.
That means there will be a lot of gray area in the new rule. That's not a great idea for NASCAR. With a finicky fanbase, rulings like this on a case-by-case basis can be extremely tricky.
Ideally, the sanctioning body hopes that the simple existence of this new rule is enough to deter drivers from finding where the line is. But we're all realists, right? Someone at some time is going to attempt to find where that line is. Others are going to follow suit. And even then, we may still not know where the line has been drawn.
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