Drivers and NASCAR officials say they are still looking for ways to limit tandem racing at restrictor plate tracks following a Sprint Cup Series test at Daytona International Speedway.
Six drivers ran on the 2.5-mile high banks trying different restrictor plates, spoilers and suspension settings among other possible solutions as NASCAR hopes to at least limit the two-car drafting that has prevailed this year both at the Florida track and Talladega. Officials evaluated different combinations to try to make the technique less effective, including larger plates which made cars break the psychologically significant 200mph average barrier.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has voiced his dislike for the tandem technique a number of times, was one of those running at Daytona but admitted no definite solution was found. He believes the answer to what NASCAR is trying to do is "in the past" and conceded it will be very hard to get rid of tandems, although he hopes NASCAR finds a way to avoid it being essential to winning at plate venues.
"I know that they [NASCAR] would like to have the pack racing we used to have," said Earnhardt. "I will say, too, that NASCAR and the drivers are all in agreement that there is no way possible to get rid of the tandem drafting.
"But what we would like to do is make it possible to race without having to tandem draft the entire day, get back to where we're having passing, racing among the leaders, guys jostling around, moving in and out of packs and lines, and then at the end if it comes down to a one- or two-lap tandem draft that wins the race, that would be expected by everyone here – NASCAR and the drivers as well.
"The bumpers match up so perfectly. We're so comfortable even at 206mph getting into the corner that I don't think you'll ever be able to get rid of it, but you can make it to where it's not the norm as much as it is now. We're doing it every single lap to stay in these races at this point. We'd like to get away from that a little bit. Have it as a tool, but not something that's a necessity."
Last month at Talladega, NASCAR introduced further changes to those made for the Daytona races, including adjustments to the cooling system and a larger restrictor plate, without any convincing results.
Sprint Cup series director John Darby believes it will take a number of changes to achieve what NASCAR is looking for but denied the bumpers aligning so well when making contact to be the root of the issue. He considers further alterations to the radiators to be among the possible solutions so that cars cannot push for as long as they have been able to do so thus far.
"Everything is on the table," said Darby. "The radiator is a simple part that does have a big effect in the deal. Teams spend a tremendous amount of money for a speedway radiator, if you will. So there's lots of benefits from addressing the cooling systems.
"If it's simply the fact that you can have the same radiator in Atlanta and California, Michigan, Daytona and Talladega, it keeps the parts inventory lower, besides the other effects we would get here at a plate race."
The Cup field will be testing at Daytona in January in preparation for the 2012 season-opening Daytona 500, the first race with fuel-injected cars in NASCAR history.