Leading Sprint Cup series drivers have pointed at aerodynamics as the cause for uneventful races in 2012.
Races at Texas and Kansas Motor Speedway have had record average speeds for the winner due to very few caution flags waving, narrowing the number of drivers able to contend for victory in the closing stages. As a consequence, some fans have expressed their desire to see the field bunched up more often in order to get more closely fought races.
Last year's championship runner-up Carl Edwards has pointed the finger at aerodynamics as the key factor preventing races from being more action-packed, saying that cars are very reliant on clean air and that overtaking is extremely difficult as a result.
"I firmly believe – and NASCAR hates it when I say this – that we should not be racing with downforce, sideforce and all these aerodynamic devices," said Edwards. "We do not need splitters on the racecars and giant spoilers.
"I have not been around long enough to say something definitely, but it is pretty common sense: If all the cars are very similar and all the drivers are within a tenth of a second of each other but are relying on clean air and downforce, then by definition if the guy in front of you is disturbing the air then your car is not going to be able to go as fast as it could in clean air."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes that track characteristics can create an additional difficulty in overtaking, with a lack of grip foiling drivers' attempts to profit from clean air.
"If you get tight [with understeer] behind a guy or you just can't catch him because you are in the dirty air or whatever, [so] you try to move around and find some clean air," Earnhardt said. "You move up to the top, [but] not every track provides you with multi-grooves to run and try to catch somebody or pass somebody. To really make a pass on a 1.5-mile track, it's difficult to run right up behind somebody and just pull over and go by them."
Earnhardt's teammate Johnson reckons that in order to change the developing trend, tracks must make adjustments that provide for more high-speed, side-by-side racing.
"The reason we can't pass more often is we're all virtually running the same speed," said Johnson. "You have to be a half-second faster to pass someone or three-tenths at least; and when you're a tenth or two off of the leaders, from first to 20th, you can't pass.
"So, I understand why we're here, but I don't think we can look at the garage area for the next change. The Car of Tomorrow has brought a lot of great things for us.
"I think the change comes with the venues. The change comes with the resurfacing of tracks and reconfiguring tracks to make more side-by-side racing."
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