By admin | February 23, 2012
By Richard Allen
After watching Thursday’s Gatorade Duel qualifying races at the Daytona International Speedway, it became pretty apparent that cooler heads will prevail in the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon. But that statement can actually have two different meanings.
In the first of the two preliminary races on the 2.5 mile super speedway, ‘cooler heads’ could refer to driving styles. Early in that 150 mile event, drivers trying to employ a mixture of pack style drafting used in years past along with 2×2 tandem drafting used most effectively in 2011 found themselves running into each other. The cars driven by Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Menard and David Gilliland were damaged beyond repair after a lap 9 crash.
According to Montoya’s spotter, the cars of Michael McDowell and Trevor Bayne had linked together in the tandem draft and were attempting to weave through the larger pack when the accident occurred. “The 21(Bayne) was shoving the 98(McDowell) and the 98 had no where to go,” the spotter explained to his driver in the aftermath.
Menard believes the sanctioning body has gone too far in mandating changes to the cooling systems and aerodynamics of the cars. “It’s a mess out there,” the winner of last year’s Brickyard 400 explained. “NASCAR is trying to dictate physics. Physics says two cars are going to push and they’re trying to make rule changes to keep us from doing it, so it’s kind of hybrid pack racing and tandem racing. It’s causing a pretty unsafe situation.”
In the second of the races used to set the starting lineup for NASCAR’s biggest race, the term ‘cooler heads’ took on an entirely different meaning. The race ran its entire 150 mile distance caution free. That proved not to necessarily be the blessing it might have seemed. As cars ran in big packs at full speed for long periods of time, overheating became a major issue in the race.
Drivers were reporting water temperatures of 280 degrees and higher as the race wore on and the spewing steam from the radiator overflows on the cars served as proof of the extreme engine heat.
“The temperatures are just way too hot; you can’t really race,“ declared Kevin Harvick, 2nd place finisher in the first Duel. “Everybody is just trying to position themselves for the last lap. The grills are so tight that at 240 degrees in the pack you are just sitting there and you can’t really make a move. That is why everybody was so content to stay single-file. I didn’t really know what to do there at the end. Tony was way out ahead of everybody by himself. I thought he was going to back-up and he didn’t back-up. I just backed up too late.”
On Sunday in ‘The Great American Race’, cooler heads will prevail, whether those cooler heads reveal themselves in the form of drivers who can stay out of accidents or drivers who can keep their engines from overheating over the course of 500 long miles.
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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