Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tandem Plate Racing a Refreshing Change of Pace

By Micah Roberts

Loving the two car tandem racing more and more (Getty)
The first seven races of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has given all types of racing in one nice little gift wrapped for all the fans to enjoy. Even though the final 10-races on the schedule are supposed to matter more because they are the Chase for the Championship races, we’ll be hard pressed to match what we have seen already, and what’s about to happen in the next two at Richmond and Darlington.

NASCAR makes a lot of knee-jerk changes and most of the time get ridiculed for it, but the changes made to the front and rears of the cars this season have kind of backed them unknowingly into a marvelous display of racing for restrictor-plate races. Of course, I am in the minority with my thoughts as quite a few disagree.

Several people I regularly talk with about NASCAR -- who know it well -- have said they liked the older style of pack racing at Daytona and Talladega. Some don’t like the sick speeds obtained for a half-a-lap by the two-car tandems, while others just liked edge of your seat racing with the packs.

But since this is my forum, I’ll just explain why I like what happened at both Daytona and Talladega this season. We have 32 other races a year where it’s pretty clear cut among 8 to 10 driver who is going to win. In the four plate races, all 43 drivers have a chance. I’m not sure if I would like it for 36 races, but giving David Gilliland, Trevor Bayne and Dave Blaney a legitimate chance with all cars really being equal seems fair enough.

Johnson's win was still a surprise ending (Getty)
Even when Jimmie Johnson won Sunday it didn’t seem like a favorite won. Sure, he was only 15-to-1 in Las Vegas -- still much higher than the 6-to-1 he is for most other tracks -- but it was unexpected. Who wants to go see a movie when you know how it’s going to end, and that’s how most of the races are.

In Johnson’s case, he only had one career Talladega win and that was only because of Hendrick’s dominance at the time in plate races. For the last five seasons, he essentially only raced hard in the spring race while just trying to stay out of trouble in the fall race while points racing for the title. His win Sunday was an upset of sorts considering he hadn’t even won in 2011 yet.

NASCAR has created a different dimension of racing that is refreshing where we see two superstars teaming with each other for the duration of the race, relying and depending on each other. Usually it’s always been about just the driver and his team or manufacturer, but this type of racing becomes more about alliances created and broken throughout a race that is absolutely gripping.

Why do we like a tag-team wrestling where two stars unite as one, or doubles tennis where you combined all the strengths and weaknesses of each player into one unit? Who doesn’t love the superstar duet at the top of the billboard charts?

And now NASCAR, with their own tag-team, where we get to see the Busch brothers team up together on a united front instead of the lasting image of Kyle wrecking Kurt in the All-Star race. Isn’t the alliance factor why shows like ‘Survivor’ are so popular with the American public?

Another welcomed aspect is having drivers communicating with one another during the race with it all being there for everyone to listen to. It makes long green flag runs more tolerable than ever just to hear the strategy and then see it unfold with the pusher switches to the front. It’s definitely not the NASCAR we’ve all been accustomed to, but it is one of the most unique things NASCAR has done for it's racing in years.

For four races a year, I love it and can’t wait until the Firecracker 400 at Daytona.

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