Drafting vs. Dirty Air: That’s the Question!

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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Have you ever wondered why when racing at a typical intermediate track, drivers get spread out and passing is so hard but when it comes to superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega, seemingly anyone can draft their way up to the front? It’s all about the air.

But what is the distinction between drafting and the dreaded dirty air? This Reddit user asked just that in this post below:

libsoutherner has the best answer to this very interesting question. To put it simply, drafting is a product of the dirty air. The dirty air causes the ability to for drivers to draft on long straight away and sweeping turns.

So, at tracks like Daytona and Talladega the “dirty air” creates the ability for stockcars to draft, which is beneficial to the drivers. Where it becomes a hinderance, however, is when downforce comes into play.

But what is downforce? Downforce is the downwards vertical force aerodynamically put on a car. This provides optimum grip and can radically increase corner speed. At superspeedway tracks like Daytona and Talladega, downforce never really comes into play because the corners are so wide and long. They never have to lift at those tracks and so it doesn’t really matter.

At intermediates, though, the dirty air takes downforce away from the car and can negatively affect the handling and drivability of the car. So, while drivers might be able to draft a little bit on straightaways, the dirty air bogs them down in the corners. This is why track position at these types of tracks is very, very important.

zyklon_snuggles, though not the original poster, thanked the redditor above for the writer’s in-depth breakdown. They also had some follow-ups of their own.

flatland_flash provides the answers to the question above. In corners, downforce is exactly what it sounds like–it forces the car farther down into the track, giving it more grip. Meanwhile, the commenter says that Reddick’s win at COTA had little to do with the science of downforce and more about his personal driving style.

ggsimmonds echoes that the clean air as opposed to Kyle Busch’s dirty air might have helped him pull away from the RCR No. 8 car but it had little to do with Reddick’s ability to take the lead and run away with it. He was just bad fast that day.

AnotherScoutMain pretty much sums the whole thing up in a nutshell right here.

dickthericher provided this pretty awesome explanation with video evidence from the old CART Series. Check it out.

Is the drafting vs. dirty air debate something that you have been thinking about for a good while? Well, hopefully these exchanges helped sum it up for you.

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts

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