We're talking radio communication between non-teammates, and while there's correspondence between drivers, crew chiefs and spotters during every race, it will take on a whole new life in Sunday's Aaron's 499.
The emergence of two-by-two racing in February's Daytona 500 made communication between two drivers on the track more important than ever. Because the pushing driver cannot see what's in front of him (other than the rear spoiler of the car he's pushing), the lead driver essentially becomes the eyes for both drivers.
With radio communication, the lead driver can directly relay to the trailing driver what's happening in front of them and warn of slowing traffic, while the trailing driver can let his partner know when his car is heating up and, thus, tell him it's time to switch places. Without radio communication, it becomes a game of pass the message – with one driver giving his spotter a message, the spotter walking over to convey said message to another spotter and that spotter relaying the message back down to the other driver.
Guess which one is more effective?
Even still, while some drivers will have access to multiple channels – a dozen or more driver's frequencies in some cases – not everyone is comfortable with communicating with non-teammates, Kurt Busch foremost among them.
"I feel like the teams that we should be communicating with are right there in Penske Racing and that's who we need to communicate with," Busch explained. "I don't know what others are going to do. Should we be on others radio? It's everybody's opinion. We're going to stick with our game plan."
From a performance and safety standpoint, having the ability to communicate with any driver on the track makes sense. With how the draft works, it's absolutely essential that the two cars stay locked together, nose to tail. If they come apart, they'll lose speed and, like Tony Stewart and Mark Martin in the closing laps of the Daytona 500, watch as the locked up cars drive right by. For that reason, being able to tell your partner what you're doing makes sticking together easier. And safety-wise, there's an obvious benefit to being able to talk to your only set of eyes if you're the trailing driver.
"As you are pushing him, you have got to be able to have him tell you, 'Checking up, checking up,' or you are going to push him right into [a] wreck and cause everybody to wreck," Bowyer explained. "That’s an important safety measure."
But with all this being said, is it right that competitors are talking strategy with each other in the heat of the battle?
In the closing laps of the Daytona 500, drivers were all over the radio trying to find a dance partner. Trevor Bayne keyed into Kyle Busch's radio to tell him he was fast. A few minutes later, Carl Edwards came on to tell Busch the same thing.
"It's probably the best analogy anybody else can come up with," Kyle Busch said when asked if it was like trying to find a last-minute date to the prom. "I was just going to try to keep it to my teammate [Denny Hamlin] at that point in the race. Looking back on that now, I probably should have went with Trevor."
And that's just it – being a loyal teammate might not be the best move. Bayne was fast the entire race; Hamlin wasn't. In the end, the more individualistic decision for every driver isn't to stick with your teammate; it's to choose who you think gives you the best shot at winning, teammate or otherwise.
This is why Bowyer wants to have access to as many radio frequencies as possible.
"In Daytona, my dancing partner was Jeff Burton all day and three quarters through the race he blew up and I find myself like, 'What am I going to do now and who am I going to find?' " Bowyer said. "I had to finish the race off of Kyle and we couldn't communicate as good with one another the way we would have liked, and if we could have, the outcome could have been a lot better."