Talladega Preview: Predicting the Unpredictable
The pack is back at Talladega this weekend as the NASCAR Nationwide Series puts the restrictor plates back on. Or is it?
Last year all we saw at Talladega and Daytona was tandem drafting. Before the start of this season, NASCAR made some rule changes to break up the tandem drafting, but that was mostly only for the Sprint Cup Series. But for the Nationwide Series, there was still a lot of tandem drafting back in Daytona. Sure, there was pack drafting. A lot of pack drafting actually, but in the end the tandems were the ones fighting for the win.
But will it be that way this weekend?
NASCAR has made changes to the cooling before this weekend. One noticeable change was the front grille opening was moved from its normal place right below the front bumper to actually on the bumper itself. So when two cars are running in tandem, the back car's grille is getting no air at all.
The drivers tried to run in a pack early in this morning's practice session, but they quickly switched to the tandem draft when they realized the tandem was almost two miles per hour faster than running in the pack.
However, the main question surrounding the ability to tandem draft is the air temperature. The temperature is expected to be in the low 90's by the time the cars take to the track tomorrow afternoon. The air temperature only reached 86 degrees today during practice and even then the cars had trouble staying cool. Because of that, there is a lot of doubt surrounding how long drivers can push before switching.
Austin Dillon told SPEED that "it's a secret" when he was asked how long he could push. Other drivers said that they could only push for a maximum of three laps. Some, like Ryan Truex expect there to be a lot of pack drafting tomorrow; much more than back at Daytona.
So, what will we see tomorrow? Pack drafting or tandem?
Picking a Winner:
It's almost impossible to pick a winner at a restrictor plate track. It's a total guess. You may as well draw out of a hat like Matthew Dillner did on NASCAR.com's fantasy racing show.
How can you pick a winner with the style of racing we've seen lately? At Daytona back in February the first 10 cars crashed coming out of turn four. James Buescher was running eleventh when the 10 cars in front of him crashed and gave him the win. Think about that for a second. The driver running eleventh in turn four of the last lap won the race. You can't predict that! Nobody can! But I'll make a guess anyway.
My pick to win tomorrow's race is Joey Logano. Logano has finished second, second, and third in the last three NNS races at Talladega. He won the NNS race at Daytona last July and was running in the top five back in February at Daytona before he got collected in that 10 car crash.
The Aaron's 312 goes green at 3 p.m. eastern on ABC.