Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Of Daytona, Danica, Dale & Duels

It’s a busy week and we’re all pros at this. Therefore, I’m going to move us right into your emails… but not until I take out the ol’ Louisville Slugger and take a shot.

Note to all SportsCenter anchormen/Dan Patrick-wannabes: If you can take the time to do your homework in March and pronounce Daisuke Matsuzaka correctly, then you should respect race fans enough in February to know that Nelson Piquet Jr.’s last name is pronounced Pee-kay, not Pickett.

Thanks for once again not caring. And please, quit trying to sound clever. Olbermann left Bristol years ago and took all the wit with him.

Q: What is the update on Ford’s confusing and long-overdue rollout of the new RF9 engine? Some teams were running it this week, but not in every race. Who is running what and what’s the reason they haven’t made the changeover completely yet? Thanks. – Corby773

A: I talked to Ford’s Kevin Kennedy about the new FR9 engines yesterday. He laid it out this way: The Roush, Petty and Wood Brothers cars used the FR9 in qualifying and practice over the last week and will do so in the Duels at Daytona today. They did not, however, use the new piece in the Shootout – that was the old 452.

Once the Duels are complete, the braintrust will come together and decide which team, if any, will use the FR9 in the 500. The exception here is the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 car – that’s been slotted for the new engine in the 500 throughout this entire process. In fact, Bill Elliott will carry the FR9 in each of his 10 starts with the Woods this season. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Front Row Motorsports and Latitude 43, which will run the 452 all year.

See also
Front Row Motorsports to Field 3 Teams in 2010; Wood Brothers to Run 12-Race Schedule Again

As for a reason, well, that’s a bit more difficult to glean. I’d bet that if the brass at Ford Racing Technology – and in particular, at the Roush-Yates engine shop – felt the new engine was a step forward in both horsepower and reliability, they’d have green lighted it for full-time use. In the meantime, here’s how Doug Yates explained not using it across the board in the Shootout:

“Part supply is one thing. It takes time to build up an inventory and that’s something we’ve been trying to really be smart about. There are economic concerns there and financial things you have to work through as well, but the other thing is that the 452 engine – which some refer to as the old engine – runs really well.”

“We had a shot to win the race with Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne, and Carl [Edwards] led the whole first segment, so we’re in a really good position to be able to go back and forth between the two engines, try to take our time and make sure that when we do release it and run it across the board, that it is 100% bulletproof and will get the job done.”

I think the word “bulletproof” is the key there. Were it as reliable as the 452, it’d be fully implemented by now.

Q: Matt, the qualifying procedure is clear to a point, but the scenarios in the Duels gets confusing for who is in, who is out and how they can or can’t fall back on qualifying-day speeds. Could you give us a refresher? Thanks! – Anthony A. Martin

A: One of my new boys here at Frontstretch, Jay Pennell, took the hours required to decipher the answer to this question. We now refer to him as Professor Pennell, who did it in the garage area with a lug wrench. Boy, that sounds dirty.

His thesis went up today.

Q: Matt, my brother and I were watching practice and started talking about Lake Lloyd and other infields like Indy that has a golf course. We thought a lake was a strange thing to put in the infield of a track – even if it is in Florida. What’s the story on that? – Mitch Lathen, Columbia, S.C.

A: See that 31 degrees worth of banking? Well, Big Bill had to get the dirt from somewhere.

Q: Odds of Dale Earnhardt Jr. jumping the Hendrick ship if this year looks like last year? Or Rick throwing him overboard? – Jim Harrellson

A: Slim and none. Junior won’t find better equipment and Rick won’t find a better cash cow. It’s really that simple. Plus, Junior won’t have a season as disappointing as last.

Q: Will Mark Martin run any Nationwide races this year? We have tickets to the Las Vegas Nationwide race and are huge Mark fans. Tell us he is!!!! – Kenny & Katie Hall, Montana

A: Sorry man. Mark’s not scheduled to run any NNS events this year. He’s concentrating on a Cup. If it makes you feel any better, there will be a GoDaddy car entered. Read on.

Q: Danica [Patrick] didn’t do bad, but the media needs to remember that she is running in the best equipment Hendrick has, and with a pit crew that was cherry-picked from the Nationwide and Cup teams. I’ll believe she is really ready if she finishes in the top 20 in the Nationwide race.

The Mirror Driving article did a good job of covering the different angles of her finish in the ARCA race and how she got the Nationwide ride over Kelly Bires. Thanks to all the writers here for the great coverage already in 2010! – Sheila Scott-Green, Florida

A: Fair points, Sheila. I think this is a topic that continues to be smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped and topped so I’ll just say that Danica, even in stellar ARCA equipment, accomplished the goal, and that was to bring it home in one piece. And she notched a top 10 to boot. Not bad.

Saturday’s Nationwide race, as well as the events in California and Vegas, are different beasts altogether. With roughly 10 Cup regulars and 20-30 NNS vets tearing it up in those races, it won’t be quite so easy.

Follow Matt on Twitter!

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com