News & Media

Daytona notes: NASCAR eliminates car-to-car communications

January 12, 2012, David Caraviello,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In an effort to downplay tandem drafting, ban goes into effect at Daytona 500

The days of NASCAR drivers being able to talk with their drafting partners over the radio during a race are over. In another step toward trying to downplay tandem drafting, the sanctioning body has officially banned the practice beginning with this season's Daytona 500.

Sprint Cup director John Darby said some drivers had as many as 20 or 30 channels programmed into their radios for restrictor-plate races. "There was a point where it got so confusing to them, that they actually lost focus on what they were doing," Darby said, "and felt much better if we could back that off somewhat and get it to a standard or more common communications between driver and spotter and driver and pit crew as we've known it in the past."

"There was a point where it got so confusing to them, that they actually lost focus on what they were doing."


That means no more drivers talking to one another over the radio, and no more spotters speaking with both drivers in a tandem draft. The rule will affect all races and not just restrictor-plate events, and still allow crew chiefs on the same team to speak with one another. NASCAR's aim was to eliminate car-to-car communication, which last year was widely used in orchestrating the two-car drafts.

"Matt Kenseth said it the best to me in the garage," Darby said. "He said anything that NASCAR can do to help us get back to one against 42 others, he supports, and I think that's part of it, whether it be the confusion from the driver's seat or the being able to cut a deal or whatever it is. The teams will still work with inside the rule, whether it's spotters on the roof, swapping notes back and forth. There will be plenty of communications going on, and the drivers will be almost as aware as they were, I guess. But it just seemed like that would be helpful to unclutter the airwaves a little bit, if you would, and make the communications more point-blank and direct to within the team."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he didn't think the rule change would have a major impact, because most drivers now pair up with teammates or manufacturer allies that they lean on almost exclusively throughout the race.

"I don't think it'll be a big deal," Earnhardt said. "You know, pretty much everybody is working with teammates anyways. I don't think they're going to limit that. I don't think it'll be any big deal. When we first started tandem drafting, you might end up working with somebody outside of your company, but then everybody sort of got a little strict on who they were going to work with and how they were going to do it, and they stuck with that plan the entire races. So I don't think it's that big of a deal."

Where's Chad?

For Jimmie Johnson, Thursday's opening session of Preseason Thunder was very different from the last time he was at the race track. For the first time in five years, his transporter wasn't in the first parking spot in the garage area -- the place reserved for the series champion. And he didn't have crew chief Chad Knaus running the activities of his team.

Knaus was off on a team-approved vacation to South Africa, leaving car chief Ron Malec and engineer Greg Ives to run the No. 48 program at the three-day test. Steve Letarte, crew chief for Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., oversaw the combined testing efforts of the Nos. 48 and 88 teams, which are housed together on the organization's campus.

A test and a Fest

Complementing the testing portion at Daytona is a special two-day Fan Fest event.

"Chad's basically on vacation, I guess," Letarte said. "We all take vacation. I took one in December, I guess he's taking one now. It's a long year, it's hard to fit one in. My responsibilities are what they always are, I just maybe take a few more trips down to the 48 to see how Ron and Greg are doing. But they're basically running the test. I just go down to see if they have any questions. They're very experienced people, obviously. They've won a bunch of championships with that group, so I think they're more than capable of running the test."

Letarte added that nothing more should be read into Knaus' absence. "Chad had such a great opportunity to go on a great vacation and really do something for himself," Johnson told The Associated Press. "When he asked me what my opinion was, I was like, 'Buddy, if upper management clears it, I think you have to do it.' I took that vacation and it was good for me. He needs that. So I am real happy he is taking the time."

Smithfield on No. 43

The No. 43 car of Richard Petty Motorsports at last has a primary sponsor. The team announced Thursday that Smithfield Foods will back Aric Almirola's vehicle for 15 races this season, beginning with the Daytona 500.

"We'd been talking to Smithfield for a little while, the last part of last year and first part of this year, up and down, talking to them about different things a racing team can do for them," Petty said. "... The longer we talked, the more they listened, and it's worked out to a really good situation right now for us -- not only for the race team, but also for the Petty family."

Petty said Smithfield is more likely to appear on the No. 43 car in the middle and later portions of the season, because the deal came together late and the company is still working on its activation program. For the Daytona 500, Smithfield's Helping Hungry Homes program -- which provides products to food banks, disaster relief, school nutrition programs, and the like -- will be on the hood.

Petty said he hopes Smithfield can "help feed the hungry people, and help feed the Pettys, too."

Keneth, sans the beard on Thursday. (Autostock)

Shaving costs

Matt Kenseth grew a beard during the offseason -- and it cost him.

At Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 1970s-themed New Year's Eve party, Kenseth was sporting a Fu Manchu and mutton-chop sideburns. Earnhardt bet Kenseth he wouldn't keep the beard through this week's Preseason Thunder test sessions at Daytona.

Through a series of subsequent text messages between the drivers, the ante grew to $2,500.

"I was actually going to [keep the beard], and it looked really stupid, but I hate losing any money, and he kept upping the money and upping the money until finally I said, 'OK.' I checked first to make sure I didn't have any photos, and then I get a call saying that I had a photo shoot here and an interview there -- and anyway I guess I lost.

"Although technically this should count," Kenseth added, stroking the stubble on his chin. "It is three days old."

That's not the way Earnhardt sees it.

"He shaved his beard," Earnhardt said. "You guys can remind him. I told him to go to the bank, but maybe he forgot.

Preseason Thunder: Day 1

Morning Practice Speeds
Pos.DriverTimeSpeed PosDriverTimeSpeed
2.Paul Menard46.785 192.369 18. Kasey Kahne 47.160 190.840
3.Kurt Busch46.787 192.361 19. Kevin Harvick 47.176 190.775
4.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.46.885 191.959 20. Clint Bowyer 47.199 190.682
5. Juan Montoya46.911 191.853 21. Mark Martin 47.225 190.577
6. Jimmie Johnson46.933191.763 22. Marcos Ambrose 47.238 190.525
7. Greg Biffle46.987 191.542 23. Aric Almirola 47.255 190.456
8. Danica Patrick47.004 191.473 24. Jamie McMurray 47.269 190.400
9. Jeff Burton47.019 191.412 25. Regan Smith 47.374 189.978
10. Trevor Bayne47.022 191.400 26. A.J. Allmendinger 47.419 189.797
11.Dale Earnhardt Jr.47.025 191.388 27. Carl Edwards 47.435 189.733
12. Tony Stewart 47.032 191.359 28. Brad Keselowski 47.504 189.458
13. Kyle Busch47.037 191.339 29.Casey Mears 47.508 189.442
14. Joey Logano 47.059 191.249 30. Martin Truex Jr. 47.633 188.945
15. Ryan Newman 47.110 191.042 31. Joe Nemechek 48.304 186.320
16. Denny Hamlin 47.122 190.994

Preseason Thunder: Day 1

Afternoon Practice Speeds
Pos.DriverTimeSpeed Pos.DriverTimeSpeed
2.Joey Logano44.469202.388 18.Jeff Burton46.945191.714
3.Brad Keselowski44.505202.224 19.Juan Montoya46.969191.616
4.A.J. Allmendinger44.506202.220 20.Matt Kenseth46.997191.502
5.Dale Earnhardt Jr.44.794200.920 21.Marcos Ambrose47.007 191.461
6.Jimmie Johnson44.795200.915 22.Ryan Newman47.010191.449
7.Denny Hamlin44.965200.156 23.Kevin Harvick47.052191.278
8.Kasey Kahne45.047199.791 24.Trevor Bayne47.061191.241
9.Mark Martin45.782196.584 25.Martin Truex Jr.47.095191.103
10.Clint Bowyer45.782196.584 26.Jamie McMurray47.102191.075
11.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.46.164194.957 27.Regan Smith47.266190.412
12.Jeff Gordon46.482193.623 28.Carl Edwards47.285190.335
13.Paul Menard46.726192.612 29.Aric Almirola47.296190.291
14.Kurt Busch46.835192.164 30.Dave Blaney47.453189.661
15.Tony Stewart46.887191.951 31.Casey Mears47.671188.794
16.Danica Patrick46.893191.926 32.Joe Nemechek 48.038187.352

"I want my $2,500."

Browse photos from Preseason Thunder at Daytona below: