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End of love-bug racing?

NASCAR has heard the cries of racing fans who hate tandem — or love-bug — racing.

The official memo was released last week: Squash all love bugs. There will be no Talladega Tandems.

NASCAR is moving to a larger restrictor plate for next month's race at Talladega Superspeedway. Although it will provide an additional 7 to 10 horsepower and speeds likely will be pushed over 200 mph, the changes won't allow cars to stay packed in groups of two because the cars will overheat very quickly under the new setup.

"After the last few superspeedway races, we've heard many drivers express their desire to open up the size of the restrictor plate some, and we thought the time was right to do that," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "We anticipate these revisions in the rules package for Talladega will help continue to provide competitive and exciting racing for the fans."

Give NASCAR credit for not being obstinate and listening to drivers and fans who grew tired of seeing these love bugs spinning in circles for hours. The beauty of NASCAR is that unlike the stick and ball sports, it can change rules on the fly during the season.

The higher speeds and the traditional pack of cars might make things a tad more dangerous, but the flip side is that tandem racing didn't allow the driver doing the "pushing" to see anything because he was too close to the lead car. Both drivers had to rely on the spotter for the lead car. That sounds fairly crazy.

Throw in another dicey element — the occasional swapping of the cars — and the cluster of the big pack doesn't seem nearly as dangerous.

"I know that a lot of people don't like us running nose to tail like that, but it's far more dangerous doing more swaps," Jeff Gordon said last week, addressing the changes. "It causes far more chances to have crashes when you're swapping especially at the end of that race where you are in the middle of a pack and all of a sudden two cars just swap."

Not everybody will be happy of course, but love-bug racing goes off the cliff in terms of NASCAR tradition. There are plenty of drivers and fans who considered it an abomination.

Isn't that right, Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

"I don't really like the two-car stuff," Earnhardt said in April before finishing second at Talladega while pushing teammate Jimmie Johnson. "I'm hoping this kind of racing goes away fast, so we don't have to talk about this no more. This is a bunch of crap."

And to further discourage the tandem racing, NASCAR's technical bulletin also noted "the addition of lubricants to the rear bumper cover will not be permitted."

Ointments such as grease to cooking spray have been used to keep the second car from spinning out the lead car in the two-car drafts.

Seems like NASCAR is intent on cooking up all sorts of ways to kill the love bugs.

gdiaz@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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