The Frontstretch: When the Draft Steals Your Breath Away by S.D. Grady -- Monday April 26, 2010

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When the Draft Steals Your Breath Away

S.D. Grady · Monday April 26, 2010

 

I’m no engineer. I understand the concepts of air, pressure, speed, draft, lift etc. etc. But if you ask me to crunch numbers, I begin to quake in my shoes. However, my eyes work just fine. And I’m pleased to say, it appears NASCAR has finally rediscovered the magic restrictor plate/stock car/pavement combination needed to provide the best in bumpdrafting.

I sat in thrall all Sunday afternoon as pair after pair of cars hooked up and proceeded to rocket to the front of the pack. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that the current setup is perfect for the needed airstream to slip over both competitors. You could see it.

It didn’t much matter that once out front, that seemingly victorious duo was doomed to slide right back to where they came from. I knew one thing, once they found another dancing partner, the slingshot would be reset and again I would get to see my favorite move in all of racing…the bumpdraft.

When done right, it is a thing of beauty. And this season’s version of a true “draft lock”, it was a breathtaking combination of fearlessness, brute force and precision driving. When running at superspeedways such as Daytona and Talladega, it’s even more delightful when you see somebody complete the maneuver at such insane speeds.

It’s not so wondrous when someone forgets to match up their bumpers. I was crushed when Joey Logano, after spending much of the afternoon using his skills wisely, didn’t quite line up the No. 39 with the nose of his No. 20…and the predictable chaos ensued.

Now, I’ve heard more than once that bumpdrafting is the evil which engenders the type of mayhem so often found at Talladega. However, I can’t say this is unequivocally so.

Last autumn, NASCAR decreed my beloved bumpdraft anathema. We proceeded to watch one of the most boring races I can recall in recent history—and there’ve been a few to vie for the honor in the past two seasons. However, we still witnessed Ryan Newman fly upside down and a last lap wreck that destroyed many of the front running cars.

Those wrecks were a result of too many cars going too fast on too little acreage. That is, indeed, an undeniable characteristic of plate racing, which I am not here to debate.

That is not to say that I was left with an entirely favorable taste in my mouth after the final checkered flag was thrown. The utilization of all three green-white-checkers managed to take the wind out of my sails. The unstoppable momentum that we enjoyed through most of the ultimate 200 laps struggled to bring home a finish we could all agree upon as rewarding.

Still, you can’t deny that Harvick’s learned move in the final lap of the race, which stole the lead from feel-good finisher McMurray, was one that can only be found in the best Hall of Fame races. Yet, how much more satisfying would a 15-lap race to the finish have been where teammates hooked up and pushed each other out front, only to be defeated by yet another hard charging duet?

For me, that was the only thing missing from the Aaron’s 499.

But you know, since the boys took NASCAR’s “bumpdrafting is approved” charge to heart, I have every confidence that I just might get to see that finale in years to come.

I’m looking forward to it.

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