The Talladega Bump Draft: Round 1

Talladega means different things to different people, but one thing that comes to mind is the bump draft. Today's Busch race showed that bump drafting can be used effectively without causing the damage and mayhem that has become an overwhelming part of restrictor plate races for the past few years.

The drivers in the Aaron's 312 continued to bump draft, but they did it the right way. Is there a right way and a wrong way? Definitely. And the right way was seen today. Two factors in bump drafting the "right" way are the approach and the location.

The approach is how you get to the car ahead of you. The right way to do it is to slowly inch up on the car, and lightly bump into their rear, using your speed and theirs to combine for a faster run. The wrong way is what's been happening more and more recently, which is to slam into them, causing damage to your front fender, their rear end, and possibly spinning one or both of you out of control.

The location is just as important. When both the front and the rear car are headed straight, on a stretch of track, bump drafting can be a very effective tool. Bumping into someone in a corner, however, is most likely going to cause a spin.

So what happened today at Talladega? The drivers used the bump draft the way it should be used. And they did it with great success. Several times during the race, a pair of cars locked nose to tail got a great run on a car running alone. That's what the bump draft is supposed to do for you.

Yes, there were wrecks in today's race. A three car crash brought out the yellow flag about half way through the race. A single car wreck sliding across the track failed to collect any "innocent bystander", as usually happens in restrictor plate races. The scariest wreck was when Tony Stewart's day went topsy turvey, and he wound up sliding down the track on his roof. It can't be a good feeling when you can't stop because your wheels are off the pavement. But that wreck, and the few others that occurred, were the results of good ol' fashioned hard racing. Bump drafting wasn't a factor in any of them.

Amidst the few wrecks, and limited cautions, there was a fitting triute to Dale Earnhardt on what would have been his 55th birthday. In the third lap, NASCAR asked fans to hold up three fingers in honor of the late 7-time champion. And the race ended with a car owned by Dale Earnhardt Inc, and painted with Earnhardt's color scheme, winning the race. What better tribute could there be for the 10-time Talladega winner?

Published on April 30, 2006 in