by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com
NASCAR’s Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup race will produce high speeds on the 2.66-mile tri-oval track with 33 degree banking at Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday, May 6.
For those not able join the renowned infield parties at TSS in Talladega, Alabama before the drop of the green flag, expected action on NASCAR’s longest track can be viewed at 12 p.m. ET on FOX.
TSS and Daytona are NASCAR’s restrictor plate races where fuel intake is reduced to promote slower speeds. Given that the TSS track qualifying record is 212.809 mph and best race speed is 188.354 mph set prior to 1990, NASCAR was smart to restrict speed.
Still, Talladega is known for the “Big One”, a common multi-car crash and only recently has tandem racing changed the nature of this race. Called tango racing by many, the practice where two cars pair up to draft around the track is disliked by many fans.
NASCAR nixed tandem possibilities by reducing the size of radiators and the rear spoiler, plus going to softer springs, a new pressure relief valve and grill changes. Then they removed the human factor when they prohibited drivers from communicating with one another during a race.
All of these changes added up to pack racing at Daytona without significant tandem racing attempts until the final laps of the race. Even then, drivers risk blowing up engines as the combination of changes cause higher engine temperatures when the cars are not racing in open air.
Still unknown is whether these changes will work at Talladega, but keep in mind Daytona’s race was on a cool February night and Dega’s race will be in 90 degree afternoon heat.
Without communications, the back car in tandem racing is driving blind without radio contact with the driver in front.
The bottom line is that pack racing will likely be the norm at Talladega and a “Big One” may go down and while some drivers might like the results of tandem racing at times, fans do not.
Fewer tandem attempts are likely and if any engines blow, it may be a pack of race cars that races to the checkered flag first.
Nonexistent or infrequent tandem racing will be a win for fans.
NASCAR’s top five drivers, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. shared their thoughts about the heated prospects on the fast Dega track.
Greg Biffle (No 16 Ford)
“I’m really looking forward to Talladega,” Biffle said. “We feel like the Roush-Yates engines will be the talk of the weekend again about how fast our cars will be in Talladega. I’m hoping for good side-by-side racing, big-pack racing, sort of like it was at Daytona. You’ve got to be there at the end to have a shot. It’s going to be a two-car tandem push for the win and hopefully the No. 16 3M / O’Reilly’s Ford will be out front.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No 88 Chevrolet)
“I feel like the style of racing we had in the Daytona 500 this year suits me better,” Earnhardt said. “I feel more confident in that style than I do the tandem. With the tandem, it is difficult to commit to someone all day long.
“I do like having more control of my destiny and making my own decisions for myself. That is really what I feel like I have been doing all my life. To do anything different just doesn’t feel comfortable. It feels odd to me.”
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“I think that the pack racing that we had at Daytona was amazing,” Hamlin said. “I thought it was great racing. The two car tandem didn’t win the race–that’s a good thing. Really, they got us to where we were running a fast enough speed that handling became somewhat of an issue. So, all those things I think will equal good racing at Talladega if they keep everything the way that it was.”
Matt Kenseth (No 17 Ford)
“I think this is the most I have ever looked forward to going to Talladega,” Kenseth said. “Without the tandem racing you can actually make some moves for yourself and are racing against everyone else, which is fun and refreshing for plate racing I think. This is probably the most I have ever looked forward to getting there, but you never know what is going to happen when you get there.”
Martin Truex Jr. (No.56 Toyota)
“The rule package is similar to Daytona,” Truex said. “The pressure relief valve is a tiny bit different. With those two things said and a lot warmer temperatures expected for Sunday, I think it will be harder to keep the cars cool. The two-car tandem should not come into play until maybe the very end.
“With a certain amount of laps to go, I think we will see teams pairing up and pushing to the end. That’s my prediction. It’s hard to tell how it will unfold considering how the track changes, the actual temperature and what teams have done to improve their overall superspeedway package.”
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by NASCAR and team representatives.