The Frontstretch: Four Burning Questions: Bud Shootout And Daytona 500 Qualifying by Mike Lovecchio -- Thursday February 10, 2011

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Four Burning Questions: Bud Shootout And Daytona 500 Qualifying

Mike Lovecchio · Thursday February 10, 2011


Happy Friday, folks! Welcome to another year of column reading at the Frontstretch. This will be my fourth year with the website, and it’s now safe to say I switch columns at the rate Paul Menard switches teams. This will be my fifth column (I think) with the site and after years of dabbling around with different ideas, it may be time to settle down … or maybe not.

Anyways, let me introduce you to “Burning Questions,” a weekly look at what you can expect from the upcoming slate of races. This week, that brings us to the Budweiser Shootout in my hometown of Daytona Beach, FL. Now, I’ve heard everything there is to hear from the drivers and Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III about the new smooth surface and what it will do to the racing, but I think I speak for everyone when I say let’s wait and see it for ourselves. And that brings me to the first question of the year…

How different will the racing be with the new surface?

Unrecognizably different. Think Talladega, only narrower. The comparison has been thrown around so much by now that it’s not even worth bringing up, but the handling component at Daytona is essentially thrown out the window with the new surface, so much so that you’ll see racing in large packs similar to that of Talladega. Now, is that good racing? That’s for you to decide. Personally, I liked the character of the aged asphalt, I liked the handling characteristics when the tires went away, I liked that (at least marginally) racing was back in the driver’s hands on a superspeedway. But I also understand the need for the repave. I may not be a big fan of the new surface, but I can tell you one thing… it sure will be exciting!

Will we see the advent of the two-car draft over the next two weeks?

Though it will remain to be seen until the cars take the green flag, the two-car draft was being practiced by race teams from the first test on Daytona’s newly repaved surface. (photo courtesy of’s Dwight Drum)

I don’t think so; not any more than we’ve already seen at Talladega since the birth of the CoT. A lot of fans see the billiard table smooth surface as an opportunity for drivers to use the two-car breakaway more, but it’s too risky to use too often. Still, I guarantee you will see it A LOT in the closing laps and following pit stops. Drivers weren’t working on the breakaway in Preseason Thunder testing for nothing. If you see teammates pitting under green, expect to see them try and make up time on the track by using the two-car train. And when the flagman holds up five fingers, expect partners to start pairing up. Simply put, you’re going to need to do it if you’re going to win Saturday, and next Sunday’s Daytona 500.

How will Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fare in Speedweeks?

That’s the big question now, isn’t it? For the most part, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s time at Hendrick Motorsports has been rather disappointing. It was supposed to be the final step towards winning a Cup Series championship, and instead he’s taken two steps back. But, despite what people in the organization have said, and Rick Hendrick and Earnhardt Jr. personally, this is a make-or-break year for the No. 88 car.

The pairing of the No. 88, with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 now in the same shop, plus a team-wide crew chief swap that saw Steve Letarte take over as the man calling the shots for Junior all make the No. 88 stronger this year. Couple that with a driver determined to prove the naysayers wrong, Rick Hendrick right, and to do both on the 10th anniversary of his father’s last lap crash in the Daytona 500 means you have the recipe for something special this Speedweeks. Junior’s got as much potential to sweep as anybody, but the new surface will make that difficult. So expect a win in either the Shootout, Duel 150s or Daytona 500, and the pole on Sunday as well.

So you’ve got Earnhardt on the pole; who wins the Shootout?

I think it’s going to be a memorable Speedweeks for old Dale Earnhardt, Sr. fans. Kevin Harvick has been the driver to beat on superspeedways of late and this week he’s got a black Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with a little No. 3 accompanying his No. 29. Not to mention he’s also going to have Budweiser on the hood; that’s a lot of good mojo right there. I don’t mean to be a nag and keep bringing it up, but Earnhardt’s untimely death will be part of the major stories over the next two weeks, and if there is any driver who may feel the need to win more so than usual during that time (aside from Earnhardt Jr.) it’s Harvick. The No. 29 team expects this to be a championship year, and there would be no greater way to get the momentum going than by winning the Shootout.

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Photography provided by RaceTake’s Dwight Drum

Friday on the Frontstretch:
Why Jimmie Johnson Will Win it All (Again) in 2011 – And Why He Won’t
Who’s In, Who Isn’t: Daytona 500
Casey Mears Driver Diary: We’ve Got Potential
Regan Smith Driver Diary: Engagement, Football, And 2011 Expectations
Five Questions For 2011: #4, Will The Nationwide Series Survive?

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
Beyond the Cockpit: Brittany Force, the Fastest Force
Voices from the Cheap Seats: Advertising for Dummies
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Off Week-Richmond Edition
Couch Potato Tuesday: Picking The Best IndyCar On-Air Personalities


©2000 - 2008 Mike Lovecchio and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

02/11/2011 06:07 AM

Which will it be, Mike? Sould we “wait and see” how the action is, or will it “…sure be exciting”?

When it comes to Jr., tou sound like HMS’ PR man. There is no reason to believe that Steve Letarte will be anything more that Jr. nation’s whipping boy, and their latest excuse as to why he can’t get the job done.
Sure, he will have his best chance of the season to win in Daytona for two reasons.

  1. It’s the first race of the season.
  2. The restrictor plates mean that anybody that takes the green flag can win the event.

The real “burning question” for me is this:
“If there are 100 hours of NA$CAR programming available during speedweeks, will even 15 minutes of it be devoted to somebody other than Dale Jr.?”

I said it either yesterday or wednesday, but I’ll repeat it here. For the last decade, every good season that RCR has had was followed up with a dismal one. The last time just happens to be the last time that RCR tried to expand to four cars.

don mei
02/11/2011 07:49 AM

When’s the 500? LOLL!!!
Isn’t that another one of those scintillating plate races?? isn’t that the one with a silly, almost meaningless qualifying format?? Golly…I just cant wait!!!Gonna be SO exciting!! Spec cars, no passing, no points to the points. I better check when it’s on sure don’t wanna miss all that excitement!!!!

02/11/2011 09:12 AM

I always look forward to being surprised!! Hoping for the best,but expecting the usual.
The effects of swallowing the company line,are what renders opinions useless, not being a newbie!! Once again DA to the limit

02/11/2011 10:15 AM

Technically, Randy Goldman, I believe you were being facetious but I got the joke either way.

Personally, I am stoked for speed week and the Daytona 500. I think I am going to sucker a buddy of mine into buying a keg and throwing a party.

Sidenote for today: My favorite Olympic diver is Greg Louganis.

Don Mei
02/11/2011 10:51 AM

Randy, your ignorance is showing..besides, I dont communicate with tedious bores. And please dont bother responding to this missive as I wont even read the drivel you write.

Don Mei
02/11/2011 10:55 AM

May I quietly suggest to those of us here who enjoy discussing things without attacking one another on a personal level that we create our very own “ignore button” and simply consider the source before wasting any of your valuable breath on responding to a bufoon.

Don Mei
02/11/2011 10:59 AM

My apologies; that should be “buffoon”, not “bufoon”.

02/11/2011 11:16 AM

Exactly! I totally agree Don. I find it really hard to do that though when Jacob feels the need to put all of his “insights” in bold and italics… and god forbid the ever elusive unicorn of bold AND italics.

02/11/2011 11:31 AM

“will even 15 minutes of it be devoted to somebody other than Dale Jr.?”

Yes. Danica is running the NW race. That’s three hours of coverage right there.

You can expect only 15 minutes of non-Hendricks / Childress / Jr. Motorsports related coverage.

Pretty much you won’t hear anything about non-Chevy drivers until DW gets in the booth and then it will be mostly Toyota coverage.

Don Mei
02/11/2011 11:42 AM

The solution is simple Don. Just turn off the sound and read a book or work on a car or bike…occasionally glancing up to check the standings.

02/11/2011 12:48 PM

@ Don Mei,

Is is so hard to ignore the retarded little child on here while he is arguing with himself using my name, and using two of his other names to try and attack me.

02/11/2011 01:49 PM

I can never tell which Jacob Randy Goldman is referring to. We should develop some time of system to be sure.

Like Jacob 1 and Jacob 2.


02/11/2011 01:49 PM

Sorry for the repeat. Browser went funky.

Carl D.
02/11/2011 06:26 PM

Like all restrictor plate races, picking the winner is a crap-shoot. Personally, I don’t care who wins as long as the race is exciting and no one gets hurt. That said, it would sure be nice to see Bobby Labonte or Mark Martin get their first Daytona 500 win.

02/12/2011 11:02 PM

a good number 2 always works for me!

02/13/2011 08:44 AM

If last night’s “Shootout” is any indication of what to expect next Sunday, everyone had better be prepared for one of the worst Daytona 500’s in history, even worse that the one won by “The Biggest Cheater” in 2006. And please FOX, get rid of D.W.!

Don Mei
02/13/2011 11:33 AM

It was pretty boring Ken..I came home from dinner at my daughters and caught the last 20 laps or so.

02/13/2011 03:45 PM

LOVED last night’s race. That was freakin awesome. Love the 2-car pair-up aspect. That changes all of the strategy that the guys are used to. This is what Nascar is all about!

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