Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle – Maybe the drivers should always communicate with other teams.

After the Daytona 500 the garage area seemed to be kind of split about the use of radio communications by drivers who are not on the same team. While initially it sounds like a bad idea, it could have some benefits and could also really spice up racing in general. This past weekend we might have been able to avoid the big one on the back stretch if Brian Vickers had been able to tell Matt Kenseth to move over. We might also have been privy to a stirring conversation between Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch as the four-time champ took the lead for the final time. The possibilities are really kind of intriguing.

The first aspect is the safety aspect. A driver who is having a problem could notify drivers close to him that he’s got a tire going down or he’s losing an engine so that they can avoid plowing into him from behind when the ultimate failure occurs. Mind you it would be difficult for a driver to actually select each drivers radio frequency and let them know as a tire goes flat, but with modern technology you would think that the electronics geeks could come up with a way for the driver to push a button and transmit to all of the cars within say four car lengths. That would give the drivers a chance to avoid a big pile up and could keep some major damage from occurring from cars piling in onto an injured vehicle.

The second, and possibly more interesting of the options would be the ability for drivers to actually talk trash to each other while the race is going on. One of the parts of other sports that can add excitement to the competition is that competitors can talk to each other while the event is going on. Tiger Woods could mention to Phil Mickelson that things are really getting tight and he might want to be careful on his next drive. Lord knows Ray Lewis will tell anyone on an opposing team that he’s coming for them all day long and they better be ready because he’s going to bring it.

Wouldn’t it be fun to hear Kevin Harvick telling Tony Stewart that he better look in his mirror because the No. 29 is coming? How about Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards talking with each other this weekend at Las Vegas after Kyle’s little handling issue ruined Carl’s day in the desert? Listening to team communication makes going to the races so much more interesting to begin with, but if trash talking could be thrown into the mix it would take things to an entirely different level.

Of course, there would always be a downside. Like anything in racing, if you gave something to the drivers you know they’d try and use it to their advantage. Imagine last weekend as Gordon was running down Busch: had Kyle jumped on the radio as Gordon started to go underneath and yelled that he was blowing up or losing a tire, Jeff might have jumped out of it and it could have given made a difference in the outcome. However, like anything, if someone cries “Wolf” once too often they will no longer be believed and people will choose to just ignore them. That would be a drawback but it would be a new wrinkle that could afford a whole new dimension to auto racing.

While some drivers might not like the idea of speaking with other racers on the radio during a race, at least at the plate tracks it is a good idea. With the two car drafting–which isn’t going away for several years until the track surfaces begin to age–the trailing driver has very limited visibility so the lead car needs to be able to make them aware of potential problems approaching. It will also allow people to avoid bigger problems when a mechanical failure appears to be imminent. The lead car can warn the trailing car that they are developing a vibration or misfire and the trailing car can get out from behind before they drive through the leading car and cause a bigger mess.

On the surface it doesn’t seem like a good idea when you first look at it, but in the long run the communication between non-teammates could be a real benefit for the series and should definitely be kept on plate tracks as long as the two-by-two drafting exists.

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