It's probably safe to say that NASCAR's new Sprint Cup Series car is already a winner in the eyes of International Speedway Corp. President John Saunders.
ISC owns both Daytona and Talladega, and when on a conference call last week discussing his tracks and the racing, Saunders had some strong words.
“The tandem racing, two or three events of that kind of stuff … was quite frankly pathetic,” Saunders said. “It's not what Talladega has been known for.”
In the last few years of the COT, drivers figured out that the fastest way around the track was in pairs, with the rear car glued to the back bumper of the lead car. The multiple duos of cars spread all around the track was a stark departure from the traditional pack racing at Daytona and Talladega. In an attempt to curb the tandem racing, NASCAR made rule-tweaks for engines to get hotter faster. And while the tweaks did limit the tandem drafting, it didn't prevent races from being decided over the final laps by it.
Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not (Saunders would lean to the latter), attendance has been down sharply at Talladega. Last fall's race had an estimated attendance of 88,000, down 20,000 from the spring race. Overall, ISC admissions revenue declined almost six percent from 2011 to 2012.
But with the new car, tandem drafting is likely a thing of the past. With the new, manufacturer specific front clips on the cars for 2013, each bumper is slightly different, unlike the COT. And also unlike the COT, the front and rear bumpers don't match up, making prolonged pushing almost impossible -- just look at what happened with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose at Daytona testing. With the old cars and bumpers, that's just an innocuous push down the straightaway or, at the worst, a save for Ambrose.
Will that help put fans in the seats? ISC certainly hopes so.
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