Talladega is a dangerous square dance

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:40 PM ET

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Pick your partner, go around and around.

It may sound like a call at a Saturday night square dance but it is what 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will be trying to get right on Sunday when the green flag falls on the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

On a track where speeds of more than 200 m.p.h. are the norm, Cup drivers have figured out that if they partner up nose to tail they can push those speeds close to 215 m.p.h. in a two-car draft even with horsepower robbing restrictor plates that NASCAR hopes will slow them down.

The problem, of course, is that these are professional athletes who would rather run over their mothers than finish second so pushing a competitor to the front is not something that comes naturally.

In fact Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, doesn’t even consider it racing at all.

“I don’t know if you call it racing, or what to call it really, but it’s definitely a different dynamic here at Talladega and Daytona,” he said.

Busch said he doesn’t like the fact he has to worry about the guy he is drafting with as much as he has to worry about his own team.

“It really wears on you a little bit mentally — kind of makes you tired,” he said. “The other thing too, is when you’re in the two-car draft and you’re pushing each other, you’re more worried about not spinning that guy out than anything else.

“So, you’re up on edge most of the time.”

Kevin Harvick said he agrees with Busch. He doesn’t like the idea of putting the fate of his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team in anyone’s hands but his own.

“The way that it is now, if you are the second car you are 100% committed to the guy in front of you and if he piles into something you are just going to pile in with him,” Harvick said.

Busch’s older brother, Kurt Busch, said in the end you just have to trust that the guy you are partnered up with knows what he is doing.

“It really gets down to survival,” the elder Busch said. “You really have to trust the guy in front of you to guide you through the different holes and not close in too quickly and make an abrupt move.”

Harvick said that unless you are in the car it is hard for the average fan to understand the level of difficulty involved at racing at speeds above 200 m.p.h. right on the bumper of the car in front.

“It’s hard to keep the cars connected and we saw a lot of wrecks (at Daytona) because of the fact that the cars were pulling up on groups of cars and you didn’t have anywhere to go,” Harvick said. “(At Talladega) you have a lot more space so it might be easier for that but I still think it’s going to be very similar to Daytona.”

That, folks, means lots of wrecks come Sunday.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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