The Key to Speedweeks 2011 at Daytona May Be ‘Push, Push, Push’
By Kelly Crandall On Sun, Feb. 13, 2011
The NASCAR season must be underway because there was no shortage of opinions following Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout.
After hitting speeds past the 200 mph mark in practice, NASCAR officials made a change for the race. Instead of messing with the restrictor plates as was expected, they decided to change the water-cooling system on the cars so that in the two-car drafts it wouldn’t take long before a car overheats.
It didn’t help; speeds still hit over 200 with Michael Waltrip being clocked as the top speed of the night at 208.29 mph.
Yet, it wasn’t the speeds that were the problem. It was the drafting.
Much like has been seen in the past, the two-car tag teams became the top story. There was no large pack; there was no side-by-side, inches away from each other for eight, nine, ten rows deep that have made Daytona and Talladega the chess matches they are.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the racing was ridiculous. Fun, he said, but ridiculous. Matt Kenseth called it “stupid racing.” And Jeff Gordon summed it by saying that it was like playing chess on the edge of a cliff as the wind blew at 50 mph.
As Speedweeks have now begun it appears that the two-car drafts are going to be key. Find a good dancing partner and don’t upset them for the race and you’ll be in good shape. Being in a two-car draft is almost four mile per hour faster than being out there all alone and with no help.
That’s how Kurt Busch ended up winning the Budweiser Shootout. Jamie McMurray was stuck like glue to his back bumper and they rode to the front and a one-two finish.
Mike Calinoff the spotter for Kenseth, put it, “Green flag. Push, push, push!”
Are the days of, “Green flag, inside, inside. Two-by-two behind you …” going away? Will it become about pushing and pulling and having spotters play dealmakers of when to the driver pushing wants to be the one pushed?
Have no fear; strategy will still be in effect when it comes to restrictor plate racing. Just that the biggest strategy is when the driver whose pushing deciding when he wants to make his move for the win.
Unfortunately that’s not what everyone would prefer, drivers or fans. Both of those groups are never at a shortage of opinions.
Both Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch said they would prefer the 30-pack of cars screaming around the track then two-car breakaways.
Said Busch, “I think it would be a better race to see us all grouped up rather than the two-car deals.”
Many fans agreed. Some didn’t.
And then there were others who were just confused.
That included Mark Martin. Going into turn three Martin got into the back of Kyle Busch and sent them both spinning. He was completely confused as to why that occurred. According to Martin he had done nothing different with Busch than with anyone else.
Ryan Newman, who finished third, told the media afterwards, “That was the most unexpected race I’ve ever been a part of.”
Unexpected but record breaking. Heading into the night the record for lead changes was 23 and at the checkered flag there was 28 lead changes. There was also the big wreck, reminding everyone that it was still restrictor plate racing.
Winner Kurt Busch said come this Thursday in the Gatorade Duels and Sunday in the Daytona 500, it will be all about two-car packs. Instead of having a 40-car pack, there will be 22 car packs consisting of two-cars each he said.
Welcome to the new NASCAR – at least for now. Vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton said that NASCAR has until Wednesday to decide if they want to make any changes heading into the Daytona 500.
Until then, everyone can digest this new form of racing that has changed the perception of restrictor plate racing.