Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR requested drivers give pack racing a try. They complied in the afternoon test session – everyone but Jimmie Johnson that is – for about a dozen laps, then it was back to two-car drafting.
For those who don't like the tandem drafting, here's the good news: The changes NASCAR made have diminished the speed advantage the two-car draft provides. Two cars weren't passing single cars at the rate they once did, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. suggested pack racing could be quick enough to hang with a two-car draft.
Now here's the bad news: "That tandem stuff is going to win the race," Earnhardt predicted on SPEED.
"No doubt," backed Kyle Busch.
What Friday's testing suggested is that this year's Daytona 500 could be a combination of pack racing and two-car drafting. If the speed discrepancies between the two styles remain relatively minimal, drivers may decide to pack up during the early portion of the race, log laps, keep their bumpers intact and try to position themselves for a run at the checkers. But when that time comes, the bottom line is the two-car draft is still the fastest way around the track. No, not as fast as it was a year ago, but still faster than riding in the middle of a 43-car freight train.
It's likely NASCAR will make more changes between now and when the teams return to Daytona for Speedweeks in February – possibly even Friday night – all in an effort to break up the two-car draft, or at the very least diminish its advantage.
[Related: Day 2 testing results]
"Two cars, unless there is some major change in physics or car design, are going to be faster," Carl Edwards said. "I personally would prefer for them to make the cars drive in a way that you have to lift a little for the corner in that two-car draft. It would separate the cars and keep guys from running off. I don't know how you are going to take this race, with this restrictor plate, and keep it from being the winner wins by being in a two-car draft. It is very difficult. I don't envy NASCAR's position but I think they are doing the right thing going through all these motions and trying to figure this out."
As for why Johnson didn't participate in the pack draft, that decision came from crew chief Chad Knaus (who's not in Daytona) before the teams made their way to the three-day test session.
"We don't want to take any chances with this car," Johnson explained. "It's way too fast. We don't need it on a hook.
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