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Kurt Busch takes 2011 Budweiser Shootout, as drafting dominates the night

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

The NASCAR 2011 Budweiser Shootout was like a ride on the ark, with drivers going around the track two by two—is this the plan for the Daytona 500?

The 2011 Budweiser Shootout has been described by many in the media as “wild,” but many fans are describing it as “boring” and "intolerable." Cars teamed up around the 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway oval, literally for the entire race, drafting each other around the track—is this racing?

Fast—it was fast, for sure, with teams of two topping 200 miles per hour. But, were the drivers actually racing?

It seemed to many onlookers like it was merely “fast driving,” not racing.

Speed is important, of course, in the excitement of NASCAR, and the drafting partners achieved speed—over 206 miles per hour in several laps. But, so is the competition between the drivers. Drafting for miles and laps on end may be a challenge for the two drivers involved in a pairing, but it is hardly a race for the field, and it is, well, boring to watch.

Of course, announcers on the night were talking about the “wild” race night—what else were they going to do, after all? They are there to talk up the sport and keep the viewers coming back, not to confirm what watchers already know and predict that a full night of racing at the Daytona 500 will be unbearable to watch if this all-night drafting tactic is the plan for the field.

Drivers without a drafting partner were left behind, which is the sure sign that there is something wrong with this draft-style racing. Drafting is fine here and there, and a great strategic tool for the hungry racer. But, racing is not a tag-team sport; it is an individual sport, and should be every man for himself—all-drafting, all the time cuts to the core of watching drivers, “have at it,” as NASCAR has famously said.

To put it bluntly, it just isn’t any fun to watch, and it is difficult to believe that any driver out there really wants to attach himself to someone else all night long, and just hope he can make it to the end and maybe time it right for a win.

The finish of the night was as much of a let-down as the race itself, not because of the winner, Kurt Busch, but because there was simply no real fight to the finish, just more drafting as Jamie McMurray pushed Busch to the victory. Ryan Newman came close to a win himself, but lost his shot when his drafting partner, Denny Hamlin, stopped pushing and tried instead to slingshot around Newman—a technique typical to short-term drafting—but failed when, although passing him to gain the lead, he dropped below the yellow line and, per NASCAR rules, was ineligible for the win because he gained position by going beneath the yellow line.

Although several drivers were indicating in interviews after the race that next week would be more of the same, the Budweiser Shootout is only a 75-lap race, much shorter than the upcoming Daytona 500. So, it very well could be that the all-night drafting strategy will not work because the cars may not take it—they may simply overheat and leave a few who try sitting on the track.

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 20, at 1 p.m. (ET). Fans can watch the race on FOX.

Read more about the 2011 Budweiser Shootout on
2011 Budweiser Shootout drivers select positions, Earnhardt Jr. wins pole

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