By Joe Dunn
Well after a couple days of practice on the new track surface and a few new aero changes we began to see new higher speeds at Daytona International Speedway. We learned quickly that 2 cars drafting tight could easily exceed 200mph.
When those speeds hit the 205 mark everyone knew that NASCAR would be quick to respond. Contrary to what nearly everybody expected there was no restrictor plate change, but instead, a new rule to restrict air cooling ducts. That change was first seen in the Bud Shootout Saturday night. Did that change stop the two car drafting? Not bat all, but it did reduce the speeds as the rear car could not stay tucked in for too long.
But, what we did see was something new at Daytona, a new form of drafting. With the 24 car field we saw no slingshot moves, we saw no ‘freight trains’ with 3,4,6,8 car packs. The entire field of contenders was restricted to multiple two car drafts. Why did we not see any packs with more than two cars? Carl Edwards, after wrecking in the Shootout likened it to dirt bike racing. “It’s really exciting and it’s fast, but your really driving blind out there.” said Edwards, “If you’re in the back, your in control, but you can’t see what’s in front of the car your pushing. If your in front, your just along for the ride and you’re really putting your faith in that guy pushing you.”
In post race interviews Kurt Busch talked about the two car draft, “We figured out the two car deal in the testing, Brad and I found that we could really get it done better that way. Even our engine program became part of the process. The guys in the engine department did a lot of work to make the cooling work in that tight draft.” Busch’s crew chief Steve Addington spoke more about the cooling upgrades, “we sent a couple guys out to the Arizona Proving Grounds to run laps and do some test and measuring on the cooling changes. The numbers were good, but not as good as we thought. But we got here and started using them and were impressed. Then NASCAR changed it on us, but it still seemed to work really good for us.”
Well, now we know why they are able to run like this but the question still remains, will we see the multicar drafts like in years past come next Sunday for the 500. The next real chance to see this drafting in race trim will be Thursday in the Duels, but being another couple of short races, look for the 2 car deal again. It sounds like the teams are unwilling, at least at this point to exceed the two car, but when it’s 500 miles for all the big $$$, look for those changes to come.
The 500 is a week away, what do you think? Your comments are welcome here.