By admin | February 20, 2012
By Richard Allen
Much has been made of the numerous rule changes mandated by NASCAR over the off season to get cars out of the 2×2 tandems the drivers employed in last yearâ€™s restrictor plate races. And after the first real test of the season in Saturdayâ€™s Bud Shootout it looks as if the sanctioning bodyâ€™s efforts to restore pack racing on the two high speed tracks of Daytona and Talladega have been successful.
But as was also revealed on Saturday, the return of big pack racing also brought back the threat of â€˜The Big Oneâ€™ to those high speed venues. Wild, spark inducing, sheet metal bending crashes were the order of the day in the season opening exhibition race as a number of cars ended the night in the garage area rather than on the track.
Almost immediately after those wrecks occurred, mention was made of the rule changes and their role in those melees. However, as is always the case, it isnâ€™t rules that cause wrecks. The drivers do that.
I know the previous statement is one easily disputed in that if the rules were not as they are the drivers would not be in position to wreck. However, in each of the major incidents on Saturday night, one driver got into another driver as they tried to push each other to the front.
The aspect of this â€˜new/oldâ€™ form of racing at Daytona that will take some getting used to for the drivers during the SpeedWeeks activities is the fact that cars will have to run in packs because of the rule changes but they still have the ability to employ the 2×2 tandem drafting when necessary. So, the trick will be to use each form of racing without running over each other in the process.
Kevin Harvick, among others, was quoted over the past weekend as saying that while cars will run in packs throughout much of the 500 mile distance, it will be the 2×2 draft that will determine the winner of the race.
And even with all the spectacular crashes in the Bud Shootout, most drivers indicated that they were glad to have the older form of restrictor plate racing back. Even Jeff Gordon, who took a scary looking ride with is car skidding for hundreds of feet on its side before barrel rolling several times, declared his approval for pack racing over tandems.
“I like this better than what we had last year, definitely,â€ Gordon insisted in a post-race interview after the Bud Shootout.
Denny Hamlin further explained why drivers prefer what seems to be a more dangerous form of racing. â€œYou can choose your own fate in this kind of racing,â€ the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. â€œYou donâ€™t have to rely on someone else to have a good day.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart summed up the apparent feelings of many drivers when he added that, “I actually had fun racing at Daytona again, which I haven’t had for a while.”
In the end, itâ€™s up to the drivers to race at Daytona without crashing. And they seem to be more than happy to take on the responsibility as compared to a style of racing last year that doomed half the field to be pushers, and thus offered them 2nd place as a best option.
I will be giving away $50 to one of my twitter followers who correctly picks the winner of the Daytona 500. You must follow @RacingWithRich on twitter to participate in the contest.
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