Williams: Free Speech Curtailed At Daytona
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
Two adages often heard in motorsports are: “What goes around comes around” and “The more things change the more they stay the same.” Such is the case with NASCAR’s rules governing two-way radio communications this year.
When the green flag waves on Speedweeks, drivers will be allowed to talk only with their spotters and crew chiefs. That means communications between the drivers during a race must be done the way they were handled during NASCAR’s first 50 years – with hand signals. Spotters and crew chiefs will again cut the deals as to whom their drivers will draft and then convey the strategy.
NASCAR found it necessary to revert to the more simple communication form due to last year’s two-car tandem racing at Daytona and Talladega, which created an explosion in two-way radio communications. Teammates were not only conversing with each other during an event, they were discussing their race strategy with other competitors as well.
Spotters found themselves responsible for guiding two drivers around the track instead of just one since the driver in the car that was pushing couldn’t see what was happening in front of him due to the large wing on the front car’s rear.
This year a smaller spoiler, more akin to the one used a decade ago, is back and so is the method of communication. NASCAR Sprint Cup Director John Darby noted during this week’s three-day test at Daytona that the ruling was a safety decision. Several drivers had told NASCAR that with as many as 20 to 30 channels in their radio “it got so confusing to them that they actually lost focus on what they were doing” during a race.
The communication technology also created a situation for NASCAR that didn’t bode well for the sport. It gave the appearance that a race’s outcome had been determined before it began. That was the feeling I had at the beginning of last fall’s Talladega race.
Even though there were 43 cars in the event I felt like only half were racing for the victory. Before the race began it had already been determined who would lead, who would push and who among team drivers were to get the higher finish due to points needed in the Chase. It gave the appearance of an orchestrated event in which drivers couldn’t run their own race.
Now, with drivers no longer allowed to talk to anyone outside their team, not organization, but team, the sport has reverted to one facet that made it popular – one driver against 42 others. It also was a step that helped return integrity to a race.
– Deb Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment