Published on July 5th, 2011 | by Shannon Baxter0
Coke Zero 400 Review: Fireworks At Daytona
Less than five months ago, David Ragan made the most costly mistake of his racing career. Ragan was leading the Daytona 500 on the last restart. In an attempt to pair up with rookie Trevor Bayne, Ragan changed lanes before he crossed the start-finish line. Unfortunately, breaking this NASCAR rule results in being black flagged.
Coming back to Daytona International Speedway, David Ragan knew he had what it takes to win the Coke Zero 400. With the help of his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, Ragan was able to take home his first career win and get redemption at Daytona.
Two Car Tango
The two car tango: You either love it or you hate it. It forces drivers to work together, teammates or not. They have to talk with each other on the radio and coordinate their strategy. Before this style of racing cam about, you would see large groups of cars drafting together at Daytona. Some drivers preferred to race up front, others would ride out the race in the back until the closing laps, when they would race their way to the front.
With the two car draft, the drivers really have no choice but to ride two-by-two the entire race. It keeps the drivers close enough that they have to race constantly, but not so close that they take out the entire pack if one car spins.
But, the biggest downside of the two car tango is, if the driver behind you isn’t the best dancer. Right off the bat on lap 5, Brad Keselowski got into the back of Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne putting him into the wall. Bayne was forced to take his car to the garage and was not able to finish the race. A lack of communication between drivers seemed to be the cause of the accident.
On lap 23, there was another incident of this style racing. Greg Biffle got into teammate and points leader Carl Edwards, sending him into the inside wall. Edwards’s team was able to repair the damage, but he had other problems. The accident broke the crush panels on Edwards’s car, causing him to inhale exhaust fumes. The team later fixed the problem, but he was eight laps down.
Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr’s tango did not work out as planned. At the start of the race, Earnhardt and Johnson hooked up and decided to ride it out towards the back of the field. When Johnson made a pit stop to make adjustments to his car, Earnhardt pitted with him to make sure they would stay together on track. Earnhardt and Johnson had great radio communication throughout most of the race.
When a late race caution came out, however, the No. 48 team pitted without informing the No. 88 team. This resulted in Earnhardt Jr not having a teammate to draft with and a slim chance to get out front to win the race. Earnhardt seemed agitated about the incident on the radio. Adding insult to injury, Earnhardt and Johson were involved in the crash on the final lap and finished19th and 20th, respectively.
Their teammates, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon had a similar strategy of hanging near the back until the closing laps. In the final laps of the race, Gordon and Martin were charging to the front when Red Bull Racing teammates Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers checked up. Kahne slid up the track in front of Gordon and the two made contact.
Gordon spun, but was able to save it, setting up the first green-white-checkered finish. On that G-W-C attempt, Martin was trying to draft with Joey Logano because neither had a drafting partner when the two made contact and Martin spun, hitting Vickers. That triggered the big one and set up a second attempt at a G-W-C finish.
RBR teammates Vickers and Kahne had no problem with the two car racing in the early part of the race. They led about 20 laps total with Kahne out front. Kahne finished the race fourth and Vickers, getting slight damage in the last lap pile up, finished 12th.
In conclusion, the two car tango is still taking some time to get used to. I miss the huge packs racing three and four-wide at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway. I also miss how drivers would switch drafting partners continuously during the race, trying to get their car out front.
With the two car draft, it’s almost like two teams become one. If one car can’t win, the person drafting with them can’t win either. But, when leading the race, the car out front will be the winner rather than both teams getting the win. There are pros and cons with all styles of racing. I think this two car tango is going to be around for a while so we might as well get used to it!