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NASCAR lays down the law.....but how will these new rules really be enforced in Sunday's Talladega 500?

  Jeff Gordon (L) has been vocal about bump-drafting...and Tony Stewart (R) has been vocal about blocking, though it was his block at Talladega last fall that helped change last-lap tactics (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   NASCAR officials tell teams in the pre-race drivers meeting that they won't tolerate 'bump-drafting' in the corners during Sunday's Talladega 500, and that there will be penalties for violators.
    Some crews said they are now more confused about what is allowed and what isn't.
    Drivers have complained that with these new cars-of-tomorrow – where the front and rear bumpers line up rather flush, so the trailing driver can't get his nose under the rear bumper of the leading car and lift his wheels off the ground – bump-drafting and 'push-drafting' have become a major issue. Hard-hitting draft like that gives a burst of speed to the two cars involved…however the leading car is at the mercy of the trailing car.
    Jeff Gordon has been a vocal opponent of bump-drafting for well over a year now, and he pointed to the issue again here Friday.
    What this suddenly new rule, announced only hours before the start of the Sunday Cup event, may really mean is this…apparently: drivers can push-draft or bump-draft each other down the frontstretch and backstretch, but they will have to back off and let the lead car 'go' before they reach the corners. Just where the 'corner' actually starts and ends isn't that clear, though.
    And then there is the issue of whether a leading driver might slow a bit, or brake-check,' in order to get hit from behind, and earn that driver a penalty.
    The issue itself isn't new, of course. Bump-drafting has been an issue here for some years, and why it took NASCAR from the April race until Sunday morning to decide on a new rule like this is unclear.
   Also unclear of course is how NASCAR might really enforce this rule.
   Kyle Busch, who won Saturday's Truck race with a good last-lap push-draft, was almost prescient after that race: "What I would like to see is, if NASCAR issues the warning in the driver's meeting, then that's your warning. 
    "If you do it and cross their line -- their 'aggressive driving' line -- then I would like to see a drive-through penalty. You get posted, black-flagged, drive-through penalty. 
   "How long can you push (push-draft) a guy?  On the Cup side Denny Hamlin has actually been practicing that in practice the past few years here. His time is two laps; he can push a guy for two full laps…and then he starts to get about 250 degrees on water temp, which is about too high."
     Todd Bodine, the man Busch beat Saturday, has another solution: NASCAR could mandate weaker front and rear bumpers, which would keep drivers from bump-drafting: "They need to do something with the Cup cars, the Nationwide cars and the Trucks with the bump-drafting. Everybody knows it; everybody's said it. 
    "It's getting out of control, with the Cup guys hitting each other in the corners, spinning each other out. 
     "It's a simple solution – brace the back bumpers up as hard as you can brace them….the next thing you do is you take the bumper out of the front so if you hit somebody, you hit them with Fiberglas.  Now I'm not going to hit somebody with Fiberglas and mess my aerodynamics up.
    "It stops everybody from bump-drafting. It's a simple solution."


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