Although the tandem draft we saw dominate superspeedway racing at the beginning of the 2010s is long gone and will likely never return, the ability to push another car out in front of the pack could still prove to be the winning move in February’s Daytona 500.
Three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin showed just how powerful it can be when he pushed Joey Logano out in front of the pack during Tuesday’s test session. However, the pack quickly caught back up as the duo became separated.
“You can’t do it for a long period of time, but the benefits of it seems to be heightened a little bit where you can really start trucking when you get them hooked up,” explained Logano during Wednesday’s media availability. .
He later added: “I don’t think you’re going to be able to do it for a long period of time for a few reasons. One, the car gets hot right away but also, those round bumpers make it pretty sketchy.”
Fast, but unstable
The Team Penske explained that the car ahead gets very unstable due to the rounded bumpers of the Next Gen car.
“Austin (Dillon) and I did it a lot last night and you’re white-knuckle the whole time. You’re hanging on tight, steering a lot, just trying to go straight with just two of us out there. So imagine if you had 40 cars out there doing that. It’s a little much. That round bumper piece is a little bit challenging for us to all deal with.”
Logano, who won the Daytona 500 in 2015, felt just “little differences” in the draft and how it worked, but believes those little things could add up in the end.
“The ability to get to someone’s bumper is pretty easy and being able to lock bumpers and get going was a huge benefit,” he said. “Nothing real crazy stood out, just finding little differences. You start stacking those things up, it becomes pretty different. But it’s a bunch of little things, not one ‘wow this is so different from the past.’ There’s still going to be a big pack racing out there. There’s still going to be a big crash. When you get us all close, it’s going to happen. So, it’ll be exciting.”
Kurt Busch reacts to tandem draft
Hamlin also practiced the tandem with fellow Toyota driver and 2017 Daytona 500 victor Kurt Busch. Busch moves over to 23XI Racing for the 2022 season, a team co-owned by Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.
“We were pushing each other around there in a tandem just to see how it would play out,” said the elder Busch brother. “The lap time picked up a ton. It’s just real sketchy when you’re doing it. It’s not as stable as the old car just yet. But these cars go through a lot more attitude changes … The car just moves around and that’s what it is supposed to do. It just makes it tougher on the drivers to have to digest everything that’s going on.”
NASCAR will return to Daytona for the 64th running of the Daytona 500 on February 20th. CLICK HERE for the entire Speedweeks schedule.