The 2012 season was unquestionably marked by an outrage from fans proclaiming that NASCAR racing had become boring at super speedways, primarily stated because of tandem racing. Fans rallied for the return of pack racing at the super speedways.
NASCAR responded to fans and did what they could last year by changing rule packages to minimize tandem racing as much as possible, with hopes the new design of the Gen6 car would address the concern of these fans next season.
Coming into the 2013 season, excitement has been building in anticipation of what the Gen6 car would deliver in the form of creating more interesting racing on the track. Much of what fans witnessed in the Sprint Unlimited, the Budweiser Duel events, and finally the Daytona 500, did effectively eliminate tandem racing.
Understanding the Gen6 car is a work in progress and that drivers are still learning what is and is not possible with the Gen6 car, it seems a fair assessment to say racing in all of the Budweiser Speedweeks, Sprint Cup events were less exciting that what fans were hoping to see.
But wait, there was pack racing throughout all of these events…right?
Let’s take a moment to just compare a few tandem racing events including the 2011 Daytona 500 with 74 lead changes among 22 different drivers. This year’s Daytona 500 in contrast, produced 28 lead changes among 14 drivers.
Consider this additional contrast of the 2011 Daytona 500; is there any fan that doesn’t remember the exciting finish resulting in Trevor Bayne taking the checkered flag in disbelief and wondering if he was ‘dreaming.’ This new race winner echoed what many fans were saying at home, “Are you kidding me?” How many of you were standing on your feet or clapping your hands equally excited to see this first-time winner as he celebrated in victory lane? Do you remember how much buzz there was about Trevor Bayne as the youngest Daytona 500 winner?
Throughout the 2011 and 2012 seasons, tandem racing continued to deliver lead changes among many drivers with fantastic on-your-feet finishes leaving fans wondering which driver would be able to pull off that last lap pass for the win. For instance, Talladega’s 2011 race netting 88 lead changes and a finish where the top-eight drivers finished within 0.2 seconds of each other. That same race resulted in Jimmie Johnson finishing within .002 seconds of Clint Bowyer for the win. Yet throughout the race, fans were overwhelmingly disappointed with what they labeled as ‘boring’ racing.
For those watching the Nationwide race this weekend, tandem racing was front and center. Also apparent, before the horrendous last lap accident, fans were engaged throughout the race with some of the most amazing racing of the weekend. Although the last lap incident understandably brought a solemness to the win in victory lane, fans agree the racing beforehand was edge-of-your seat thrilling to watch for the entire race. In fact, the Nationwide series drivers broke the series’ track record for lead changes with 20 among 20 different drivers.
Looking at the Daytona 500 the following day, fans did see pack racing return to the event along with periods of single file racing between the lead pack and those that had broken away from the lead pack. Even those rallying they wanted the pack back at the track, tweeted they were bored throughout the race.
Jimmie Johnson said he was frustrated at how long it took to pass leader Brad Keselowski, even though the leaders car had a damaged nose.
“I was desperately wanting to get by him or in the inside lane,” Johnson said. “There were far more cars lined up on the outside lane than the inside. … It was just so hard to make up time on the bottom because there were fewer cars.”
Brad Keselowski echoed the difficulty in passing with his post-race comments.
“The high lane just had all the speed,” said the defending 2012 Sprint Cup champion. “It doesn’t mean we weren’t trying. It just wouldn’t go down there on the bottom and it made it real hard to pass. It wasn’t for lack of effort. I would rather make that effort, and I did, but I kept going to the back. The only thing worse than not being able to make a pass, is being in the back. That is just the way it was today.”
Fans anticipate the ‘thrilling excitement’ of the last lap pass at Speedweek events including the Daytona 500. In 2013 fans left the track without an exciting last lap pass for the win in any of the Sprint Cup Series‘ four events.
Ironically, the most thrilling race of Speedweeks was marred with a horrific last lap accident and I’m certainly not advocating any accident as what makes racing thrilling to watch.
Equally ironic, is the tandem racing of the Nationwide Series, produced the most thrilling racing of 2013 speedweeks. This race included everything that racing is all about, including incredible saves that amazingly, more than once, prevented the proverbial ‘big one.’ Teams partnering together to competively pass each other for the lead using their raw talent as some of the best drivers in the world to race the race for the entire race.
What more could any race fan ask for…right?
Unfortuntely, the “Thrill of Racing” missed the mark for the Sprint Cup Series and fans alike at Daytona.
There are three more super speedways this season. Is your opinion still that pack racing is what you want see three more times this year?
This will be a hot topic of discussion on Fan4Racing’s Fan2Fan NASCAR Talk – Tonight Monday, Feb 25th at 8:30 to 10pm ET on The Sports Chronicles Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio. Click the link above to listen to the replay with guests CE Falk and Dustin Long with our Fan4Racing team.