The Frontstretch: The Big Six: Questions Answered After the Daytona 500 by Amy Henderson -- Tuesday February 28, 2012

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The Big Six: Questions Answered After the Daytona 500

Amy Henderson · Tuesday February 28, 2012

 

Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind each Sprint Cup event? Amy Henderson has you covered with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five W’s and even the H… the Big Six.

Who…gets my shoutout of the race?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may have had a chance for Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 if he’d had any drafting help.

It wasn’t a lack of talent or even lack of equipment that cost Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a shot at Victory Lane when all was said and done. It was the lack of a drafting partner. Pack racing or tandems, in the end, a single car can’t pass a pair, and when Denny Hamlin dropped off Earnhardt’s tail on the final restart, it sealed the fate of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver … and added one more race to Earnhardt’s winless streak (now up to 130 races) in the process. So why the shoutout? Because Earnhardt drove a smart, clean race, stayed out of trouble, and finished with an intact car while showing he still knows his way around a racetrack. If this race is any indication of his 2012 season, that winless streak doesn’t look like it’s going to last too much longer.

What… was THAT?

OK, call me naïve or what you will, but how can a car that fits the template but “doesn’t look right” and never turned a lap attract a bigger penalty than a car that was found to be illegally low after making a qualifying run? Once upon a time, the garage in Daytona featured a large table of confiscated parts taken from cars in opening tech; it served as a warning for teams of what not to do while the offending cars had been fixed before they even hit the track. No harm, no foul right? Apparently, those days are long gone as the table was not visible in the garage this year and NASCAR prepares to hand out a large punishment to Chad Knaus for a C-Post infraction that wasn’t even technically an infraction (my guess is Knaus will get an eight-week vacation in NASCAR purgatory as his consolation prize). Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer completed a qualifying run with a car too low, ran his Duel from the rear and, well, that was about it. No further penalties are expected for Bowyer’s 11th-place result while Johnson’s team will get the book thrown at them this week.

That just doesn’t seem right. People can say “The No. 48 team planned to run that illegal part if they hadn’t been caught,” but that’s not accurate. Yes, they would have run the part… if it hadn’t been found illegal. And if it hadn’t been found illegal, it’s not an infraction. Meanwhile, NASCAR has caught cars with measurable template infractions in pre-race inspections and allowed those cars to fix the issue with no penalty. The answer is simple: either allow anyone with something found in opening tech to fix the car and reinspect before being allowed to practice, or hand out a fine, suspension, or points penalty to every car that fails the opening inspection for any reason. And while they’re at it, make the punishment for actually competing with in illegal car, whether in qualifying or in a race, a harsher penalty than that handed to one which never made a single illegal lap.

Where…did the polesitter wind up?

Despite crash damage and a penalty from NASCAR, after the smoke cleared, Carl Edwards, who laid down his pole-winning qualifying run more than a week ago, was able to coast home to an eighth-place finish. Edwards was penalized after the red-flag period when a crew member removed a windshield tearaway under the red. Crewmen had been given permission to assist drivers in hooking up radios and window nets, but not to work on the racecars, and removing the tearaways falls into that category. Edwards then suffered heavy damage in one of several late-race crashes, and also got lucky on a yellow-line call by NASCAR before he survived to the checkers for that eighth spot.

When…will I be loved?

Any time a new system is rolled out, there are going to be bugs. Anyone who suffered through the mercifully fairly short incarnation of Windows Millenium Edition can attest to that. So while the first race for the electronic fuel injection system showed that EFI works in the Cup cars, it was not without issues, and those “bumps in the road” make EFI this week’s villain, left to sadly sing the Everly Brothers alone. Fuel pressure problems ended the hopes of several teams, including some, like the No. 33 of Elliott Sadler and the No. 13 of Casey Mears, who had appeared to have a real chance of winning before their pickup problems. It’s never fun to see a driver’s day ruined by a mechanical failure, and to see several have issues with the same system put a damper on the race. Hopefully, by the time Talladega rolls around in May, these issues will be a distant memory.

Why…does NASCAR think the current restrictor plate packages were a good idea?

After two weeks of absolute carnage that saw at least one multi-car wreck every time the Cup cars were on track as well as during both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races, have NASCAR’s efforts to restore the big packs really been successful? The cars were unstable enough before NASCAR chopped the spoiler height, and with no downforce, it’s hard to really get into the racetrack. This style of racing is dangerous, plain and simple. And wasn’t electronic fuel injection supposed to eliminate the need for a restrictor plate? The fuel mixture is controlled by the EFI computer… so why do these cars even have a plate on them?

How…scary was that jet dryer explosion?

Just when I thought I’d seen it all from Daytona this weekend, with the improbable victories of John King and James Buescher, who won the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series races, respectively, and the carnage that marred the entire two weeks in Daytona, we get the scariest wreck I’ve ever seen. If you missed it, Juan Pablo Montoya was passing the jet dryers to catch up with the field under caution when something broke underneath the No 42, causing Montoya to shoot straight up the track into the side of the jet dryer, which exploded in a ball of flame.

Both Montoya and the driver of the jet dryer, Duane Barnes escaped, but the jet fuel continued to burn so intensely that it melted the tires on the truck, the jet dryer itself and the paint on the SAFER barrier. To make matters worse, safety crews on hand did not have the proper extinguishers to put it out as the flames advanced toward the workers standing on the grass. It wasn’t the dramatic crash that viewers usually expect at Daytona, but it’s safe to say that this is the Big One of Speedweeks… if not one of the scariest wrecks of all time.

Contact Amy Henderson

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Sherri T
02/28/2012 08:39 AM
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Amy, you’re so right about the rules infractions! No consistency! I wonder if the posts were on a different car number if they would have received the same attention…???

The Ghost of Curtis Turner
02/28/2012 09:44 AM
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Good article Amy,
But you violated NASCAR’s latest Rule…you did not mention Danica…I am sure there will be fines levied against you and Matt later this week >LOL

One must ask this question, had the C pilars been found to be out of spec on a certain manufactures car…hmm lets say one that starts with a “T”. Would the car owner been allowed to fix it like in the old days?????

Rick
02/28/2012 10:38 AM
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If illegal C-pillars had been found on a Toyota or Ford, nascar may have not even allowed the team to race.

If the car that hit the jet dryer had been driven by someone who’s initials were “KB”, fans and lots of media folks would be calling for that driver to be banned from racing.

Michael in SoCal
02/28/2012 10:56 AM
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You should ask Regan Smith what he thinks of the call that Carl Edwards was forced below the yellow line.

Dennis
02/28/2012 12:53 PM
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What do you think would have happened to the 16 if it were Ralph Sr. behind him that close to the end of the 500?

Why was Montoya going so fast in the first place?

Doug in Washington (State)
02/28/2012 01:31 PM
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1) Edwards getting forced below the line was a bit more obvious than Smith… in that the car that forced Edwards down there actually HIT him. He wasn’t forced, he was pushed. And I’m not an Edwards fan.

2) Montoya was going that fast because it’s a 2 1/2 mile track. To catch the field that’s already moving at 70MPH you have to do at least twice that, and Montoya was headed back to the pits anyway because the car still didn’t feel right. The idea is to stay ahead of the pace car enough to get the work done. Everyone does it.

3) NASCAR not having the right firefighting equipment… Geez, they have 6 Jet dryers at the track, each holding 200 gallons of jet fuel, and no Firefighting Foam? Dry chem extinguishers are next to useless on fuel fires. Plus I’ve seen them foam a car on fire, so where was the foam truck?

Carl D.
02/28/2012 03:47 PM
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JPM spinning into the jet dryer truck and the resulting fire is the strangest thing I’ve seen at Daytona since a driver in the Goody’s Dash series flipped his car into Lake Lloyd. I don’t remember who it was or when it happened (early 90’s?), but it was another surreal Daytona moment.

Watching the Daytona 500 on Monday night was actually kinda cool. One of the announcers described it as Monday Night Football at 200mph. I don’t know about that, but it probably got some people watching who aren’t necessarily Nascar fans.

Mike In NH
02/28/2012 04:03 PM
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Wanna make a bet those service truck drivers will be required to have helmets and firesuits going forward? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to actually design the jet dryer trailer with the idea someone might hit it, too. I mean, it is a racetrack with moving vehicles and all…

Razz
02/28/2012 06:11 PM
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Whoever those ‘fans’ are that complained about the tandem racing are obviously not race fans – they’re wreck fans. The tandem racing produced real racing (although of a different style than we’d ever seen before) cars actually passing other cars, lots of lead changes, and a real test of drivers skills.

The parade they gave us now led to one thing and one thing only – big wrecks. I guess that’s the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about and if they do they deny it – wrecks sell. Wrecks make the highlights (then again, when there’s no racing to show, what eles can they play on ESPN?).

This is dangerous and foolish. Thank God for all the safety features in the cars these days, as well as a lot of luck with Montoya’s wreck, otherwise we’d be reading someone’s obituary today.

Matt
02/28/2012 08:13 PM
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I mean, the drivers said tandem racing required no skill, but I’m sure you would know better.

Glen H.
02/29/2012 12:10 PM
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You have to love NASCAR for rolling out a 1990’s style throtle body EFI system and then having issues with it. I wonder what would have happened if they actually rolled out something that uses current technology.

Brooks
03/01/2012 08:27 PM
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Doug, that is true about Carl being hit down there, but NASCAR has always penalized a driver who went below the line regardless of whether they were forced, and suddenly they won’t call it. If they were consistent, that would help.

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
Piquet, Jr. Wins K&N East Opener

Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.