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This could be a wreck filled weekend in Daytona

By admin | February 16, 2011

By Richard Allen


Based on practice in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series’, this could be a record weekend for sheet metal carnage in Daytona. With new asphalt in place and a variety minor changes to the cars in both divisions, speeds are higher than has been the case in previous years. And more importantly, the style of racing has dramatically changed.

Both series’ have had laps in excess of 200mph to be posted so far in practice. But it isn’t the speed in and of itself that may cause problems. Trouble is, the closing rates are extreme. Rather than racing in huge bunches, drivers are finding more speed by drafting closely with one other car. Tight pairings of cars gain on the racers in front of them at previously unseen rates.

So far, it appears as though drivers are having difficulty adjusting to these closing rates as those being caught are having a hard time staying out of the way of those catching them. This was evidenced in Wednesday’s Sprint Cup practice when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex came together in an incident that caused both drivers to unload backup cars.

The Earnhardt/Truex accident came when the two groups they were part of gained rapidly on another group. The leading cars appeared unsure as to which way to go in order to get out of the way. The result was two sliding cars that ended up with a great deal of damage.

Keep in mind, in practice the teams see to it that their cars are not grouped too tightly in large packs. On Thursday in the 150 mile qualifying races for the Sprint Cup cars, everyone will be in the same place at the same. With some gaining and some be gained on, this seems to offer a high probability for multiple collisions.

In commenting on the hazards of racing in Daytona after his practice crash Earnhardt said, “I’m going to tell you man, the odds of us wrecking in that qualifying race are probably better than us winning it.”

The Nationwide Series may be even more concerning than the Sprint Cup races. The speeds for the lower series are even faster than those of the top division. And to complicate matters even more, the drivers in the Nationwide Series are less experienced on the whole than their higher level counterparts.

Add to the lesser experience of the drivers, the noses and tails of Sprint Cup cars tend to be uniform and match up well with each other, the Nationwide cars have different noses and tails that do not always mesh neatly together. This, in turn, causes the trailing car to lift the leading car which obviously makes the front car very unstable.

Even veteran drivers such as Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne expressed concern over the situation during Wednesday’s Nationwide practice session.

NASCAR has responded to the high speeds in the Nationwide Series by issuing restrictor plates to be combined with the normally used tapered spaces. This, they hope, will slow speeds and reduce the closing rates.

There may well be other changes in store for both of NASCAR’s top divisions still to come. However, no matter what changes are made, it appears as though the new pavement and tweaks made to the bodies of the cars have dealt a hand that no one was really prepared for.

Based on practices and races held so far at the Daytona International Speedway, it appears as though the ingredients are in place for crash filled weekend. Perhaps if there is any bright side, it could be that there may not be a ‘Big One’ but rather more two car incidents.

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2 Responses to “This could be a wreck filled weekend in Daytona”

  1. Charles Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Nascar should never have reduced the restrictor plate!

    All these wrecks is in practice is nothing we havent seen before!!!

    These cars need to run 210 to 220 mph!!!!!!!!Does not matter the closing rate, they have brakes!

    You cannot keep trumping the safety issue everytime they reach 200 mph or wreck!

    Mabe Nascar needs send some of its safety directors to Washington, our highway system is what is dangerous! Nothing is done much when we have wrecks, infact I bet all the ones who slow the race cars down, would be “against bringing the speed limit back to 55 mph” on interstates!!

    I am beganing to think that Ralph Nader is Nascars director of competition!

  2. Kevin Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Reducing the restrictor plate isn’t slowing these cars down in the two car draft enough, it only really has an impact when the two car draft is broken which then makes the closing rates so much quicker than they were with the larger plate. Restrictor plates arent’ the answer. I see that there is danger in the cars taking flight if speeds go over 200mph, and therefore danger to the fans, so the speed must be limited. Is there any reason they can’t just mandate the Rev limitor. Wouldn’t that, combined with the rear gear mandate keep the cars from exceeding the 200mph mark? I’m guessing if they just used the Rev limitor, and removed the plates all together than the throttle response comes back to these cars and we’ll see a lot less of the two car draft and a lot more single cars working the draft. Maybe even a run from someone from 20th up to the lead in 2 or 3 laps? Wouldn’t that be cool!