Monday, July 07, 2014

COMMENTARY: As Expected, NASCAR's Push-Drafting Rule Does Not Work

It’s not like we didn’t see this coming.

In January of this year, NASCAR implemented a new rule banning tandem drafting in restrictor plate races in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. The sanctioning body vowed that drivers attempting to execute tandem drafting maneuvers would be summarily black flagged, with NASCAR Nationwide Series Director Wayne Auton saying during SpeedWeeks 2014 at Daytona, “It’s a simple rule. If your bumpers are locked, you’re pushing. You can bump draft all you want, but don’t lock bumpers and push someone, or we’ll black-flag you both.” 

At the time, some of us worried that NASCAR’s new edict would be difficult to enforce, and impossible to enforce fairly. NASCAR justified those concerns almost immediately, penalizing Nationwide Series driver James Buescher for pushing in the early laps of the season-opener, while inexplicably declining to sanction the driver he pushed. The sanctioning body then ignored numerous, blatant outbreaks of push-drafting in the race’s final laps, leaving observers to wonder exactly what the rule meant and how it would be enforced in the future.

It was more of the same Friday night at the World Center of Racing, as Josh Wise and Landon Cassill were issued early pass-through penalties by NASCAR for violating the push-drafting rule. On the final lap, however, a number of drivers appeared to violate the rule, without being penalized by NASCAR. Most notably, Ryan Sieg pushed winner Kasey Kahne virtually all the way around Daytona’s 2.5-mile tri-oval on the white-flag lap, shoving him past leader Regan Smith to a razor-close, .021 second victory. After the race, both Sieg and Kahne openly admitted flaunting the push-drafting law, raising howls of protest over NASCAR’s non-call.

Kahne (5) and Sieg: Hooked Up!
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton told reporters afterward that Sieg and Kahne went unpunished because the side-to-side movement of their cars proved them to be bump-drafting, but not linking bumpers. He admitted, however, that the sanctioning body may need to modify (or at least clarify) what is currently a murky interpretation of the rules.

"We'll look at this situation," Pemberton said. "It's the last plate race for the Nationwide Series this season and these are the rules we put in place at the beginning of the year. We've worked with the teams under their suggestions and said that we would look at it by the end of the year and see what adjustments we need to make.”

Without a major remake of NASCAR’s push-drafting rule, it’s simple to predict what will happen when the series returns to Daytona next February. On the final lap, someone will literally attempt to push the envelope, once again forcing NASCAR to decide the outcome of the event by black-flagging a prime contender, or by swallowing the whistle and allowing that driver to ignore the rules. 

Either way, water cooler talk on Monday morning will once again center on the umpire, rather than the game. And that’s a bad thing, no matter how you slice it.  

NASCAR owes it to its competitors and fans to do one of two things. Either come up with a simple, easy to understand, 100% enforceable push-drafting rule before Speedweeks 2015 at Daytona, or take the current, unenforceable rule off the books and let the racers do what they do best.


  1. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Good report Dave. I say take the rule off the books and let them bump draft. That was an exciting type of racing in my opinion. Please do the right thing Nascar

  2. Anonymous4:14 PM

    agreed. get rid of the rule and just let these guys race.

  3. Hey Brian France please take a one way trip North, you know the road, it's just opposite of the direction Big Bill traveled. And please do not return to DIS! And Robin you must know that we're all tired your crap and lies from your little palace. You can just head back to NY and join Geoffs 3 fans at any local track and learn how racing was/is supposed to be. You southern guys have to relearn all the basics of racing at tracks in VT. NH and Maine before you ply your trade anywhere again. Just don't try to learn in the police tracks of CT. Now there is a real unfortunate joke for you. The police can't black flag you but the can sure as heck shoot you.

  4. Get rid of it.....I watched the closing laps and wondered why nothing was done. Weather the cars were moving side to side. They were still locked together.

  5. The reason it has failed is NASCAR, refusing to think outside of its "we have to meddle" box, over-thought itself and paid too much attention to the negatives of push-drafting and ignored its manifest positives. It obsessed over the bizarre visual of the racing from 2011 and ignored how by 2013 push-drafting had evolved back toward conventional drafting, best shown in the Truck 250 at Talladega. Push-drafting is the strongest power to pass in racing history and NASCAR should want unlimited power to pass, at as many tracks as can allow it (almost all of them, realistically).

    The racing in 2014 has been very good - yet it can be better. If Kahne and Seig were flaunting a rule whose necessity was dubious at best, then the problem is the rule.

    And it's a wider indictment of the ideology of NASCAR where they always think in terms of giving the officiating tower or the inspection station - sometimes both - more control of the racing instead of letting go of that control and letting the racers have that control. If Richard Petty's cars want to push-draft to win Talladega (I make this mention because back in the Dodge Charger days Petty was the best push-drafter in NASCAR) then let them. The way that kind of racing was evolving 2009-13 the negatives of scattered tandems and team racing were evolving away back toward conventional racing.

    So what NASCAR needs is to start taking away levels of control from the officiating tower and give it back to the racers.

  6. Charlie7:28 PM

    Totally agree Dave. Nationwide race was the seconed worst race I have ever watched ( NH ristrictor plate was worst). Calling a penalty on Cassil & Wise but not on Bayne & others the last several laps was way out of line. I say let them push all they want. Smaller radiators or smaller opening in the grills.

  7. Just do it the easy way, drop the rule as it is not possible to enforce which has been shown convincingly now. Also, ditch the ride height for the lower series too.

  8. A wider view of this shot clearly shows the 5 - 39 - 22 - 20 all completely linked together pushing. All 4 should have been penalized.

  9. Anonymous2:55 PM

    incredible, penalize a couple guys running alone almost a lap down and turn a blindeye to the race being stolen by Kahne. It also seems to go unoticed that race fans see right thru Robin Pemberton and his pompous ass lies.

  10. Anonymous11:41 PM

    Too much bitching from fans and not enough watching what matters most, racing. Nascar was just fine before the "age of the internet."

    1. Controversies like the 1973 National 500 indicate NASCAR wasn't that different before the age of the internet.

      And we get that NASCAR's no-push-drafting rule doesn't work yet again in the 2016 Powersource 300 and Autoweek's piece by Matt Weaver about the rule.