The Talladega Bump Draft, Round 2

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

And that's about as far as it went on Sunday. A few pace laps later and the rain began to fall. It wasn't much, but it was enough to postpone the race a day.

Will Farrell, the Grand Marshall for the race is probably used to second takes, third takes, and any number of takes, after having filmed several movies. But he wasn't prepared for "take two" of the command. On Monday it was done by the crowd, instead.

And what of the bump draft? The Busch drivers showed that they could do things the right way, bumping lightly and only on the straight stretches of track, so that they didn't cause a massive wreck at the super speedway. Could the Cup drivers do the same? They had some help from NASCAR by way of softer bumpers. The "No Bump Zone" that was enforced at Daytona was also in place at Talladega, except that this time, the "zone" encompassed the entire track.

The first "big" wreck happened only ten laps in, but it wasn't caused by bump drafting. It was caused by 5-wide racing into a turn. It collected ten cars, ending the day early for many of them.

A couple of cautions came out because of tires going down. A couple of caution flags flew because of cars spinning out, but those spin-outs weren't caused by bump drafting.

Two cautions near the end of the race was simply because Dale Eanrhardt Jr's engine "blew up. Quit Running", and a dozen or so laps later, the same thing happened to Bobby Labonte's car.

But the bump draft did NOT cause any major wrecks. Or at least not until the last 20 laps or so. But with the end of the race in sight, the drivers are naturally going to become much more aggressive, making the packs tighter, banging against each other more, and wrecking a few cars.

But things have moved into the right direction in terms of cars not slamming into each other throughout the restrictor plate races. Is it because of the changes NASCAR made to the rules? Or is it a case of the drivers being "smarter" on the track?

In the end, Jimmie Johnson won another restrictor plate race, to go along with his victory at Daytona earlier this year. And Tony Stewart, after leading a lap early to continue his bonus point streak and getting caught up in a spin by Dale Earnhardt Jr. midway through the race, finished in secondŠ for the third straight time at Talladega.

They both used the draft the way it should be used, as did several other cars, be it with light bumping, or by pushing the air between cars. And the cars that used it the right way ended up at the front of the pack when they crossed the finish line.


Published on May 1, 2006 in