|Daytona Power Rankings|
|They paired up, rode around for 140 laps, then raced hard for about 20, wrecked for about the final ten and in the Jenga game that is modern restrictor plate racing, David Ragan was the top piece when the pile imploded on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.|
Many drivers detest the new strain of two-car drafting required at Daytona and Talladega, and understandably so. Physics trump racing for much of the night, and the necessity to make a move for the front in the final laps again reduced those final frantic moments of actual competition to a demolition derby.
An interesting -- or maddening -- aspect of two-car drafting is the choosing of sides that begins weeks before the race. Whereas in the past freight trains of cars circled until their individual components made, then broke unions to suit their individual strategies, tandems tended to stay together for much of the race. And it often created some off partnerships, and new belles of the ball. David Gilliland, who has demonstrated to his peers an aptitude at plate track the past two years, said although he had no interested partners at the Daytona 500, he had 15 other cars on his radio on Saturday. He eventually joined forces with Tony Stewart.
With Talladega and Daytona each featuring asphalt surfaces early in their usage cycles and the current Sprint Cup car sporting a design conducive to nose-to-tail hookups, the current two-car draft is unlikely to change soon. Unless, NASCAR wants to, said team owner Jack Roush.
"You fix the front and the back of the car so if they have contact, there is an inclined angle that would drive the rear wheels off the ground to stop it," he said. "It's easy to stop it if NASCAR really wants to stop it.
"I thought in Daytona, I thought in February that we'd be happier having these cars paired up two at a time, and the drivers would be more in control of their circumstances and less likely to be involved in a wreck that wasn't their own problem. I think that it's about the same. I think when you come to these restricted tracks, there is such a premium on keeping your foot on the gas and maintaining your momentum that you're inclined to not use reason, sometimes, and get out of the gas and separate yourself from the risk that would be there for you. But it's exciting racing. Daytona and Talladega both have been known for the fast speeds and for all of the excitement that is unique to those two racetracks. And we've got something now that I think is no less exciting than it's been, and it's no more hazardous or less hazardous than when we had the 30 car drafts. I think that's what we'll have to deal with when it comes to Daytona or Talladega."
Now on to the power rankings: