By admin | January 10, 2012
By Richard Allen
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week teams from the Sprint Cup division of NASCAR will be on track at the Daytona International Speedway to test their machines in preparation for the upcoming season in general and in particular, the Daytona 500. These sessions will be aired on Speed.com and the Speed television network.
For those able to watch or stay up to date with the test by some other means, keep in mind that what is seen may not necessarily be as important as what is heard. In other words, donâ€™t pay so much attention to the stop watch but do pay attention to the words and tones of the drivers and crew chiefs throughout the three day period.
There are a number of things teams will be looking to accomplish in this extended practice time but posting the fastest one lap time will likely not be among their highest priorities. New rules have been laid out during the off season that specifically relate to the racing on the two restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.
Since the repaving of the Daytona International Speedway prior to last yearâ€™s running of the Daytona 500, the track surface has been made very smooth. That, in turn, has allowed for cars to run in very tight packs of two in order to increase their speeds. The style of racing that has resulted proved to be unpopular with at least some fans and a number of competitors. Responding to the complaints of those groups, the sanctioning body has attempted to enact measures that will break up the two car drafts and force drivers to run in larger packs.
For this coming season NASCAR has instituted the following:
1. Smaller radiators with a maximum capacity of two gallons.
2. Smaller radiator overflow tanks with a maximum capacity of Â½ gallon.
3. The radiator inlet has been moved closer to the front center of the bumper area of the car.
4. Softer springs have been mandated.
5. A smaller rear spoiler has been established.
6. The holes in the restrictor plate itself have been increased to 29/32 of an inch. That is an increase of 1/64 of an inch over last seasonâ€™s Daytona 500.
And as has been widely reported, electronic fuel injection will be new to the Sprint Cup Series this year which will no doubt be a major focus of this test session although there have already been a number of EFI tests.
â€œThis is an opportunity we are providing to the competitors to implement and test the new Daytona rules package for 2012,â€ said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition.Â â€œItâ€™s a chance for them to get comfortable with the cooling package, the smaller spoiler and to practice drafting for next monthâ€™s Daytona 500.â€
The new rules package is a result of information gathered during recent tests at Talladega last October and at Daytona last November.
â€œWhile we have had other tests with these set-ups, this is the first opportunity for the entire field to test together and get more comfortable with this package as it relates to their cars,â€ Pemberton said.
â€œThis three-day test will allow the engine tuners for these teams to be able to work with their engine packages and see how they relate and react to the new cooling regulations,â€ Pemberton said.
The key to this test session is how well the teams and drivers adapt to the rule changes listed above. Seeing that a team has posted the fastest time on the speed chart may not be the best indication of how well that team has adjusted to those off season rule changes. Hearing what the driver and the crew chief have to say about how their car is behaving may actually be the best indication of the teamâ€™s efforts. So what we see may not necessarily be as important as what we hear.
Of course, one thing we wonâ€™t hear will be driver to driver communication. That has been ruled out for the Daytona 500.
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