Race Weekend Central

News & Notes – Daytona

*NASCAR Makes Restrictor Plate Adjustment*

As expected, NASCAR informed teams on Tuesday they would reduce the restrictor plate 1/64 of an inches to 57/64ths, which should take away anywhere from 13 to 15 horsepower.

Reaction was mixed in the garage area, as most drivers welcomed the change, while some engine builders hoped the sanctioning body would go to a larger plate instead.

“I think the reason NASCAR is taking small steps is because they don’t need a lot to get the speeds back down where they need to be,” said defending Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray. “In the last couple of days, I have spoken with a lot of drivers and nobody seems to really be even a little bit upset or concerned with the changes they have made, I think everybody is for it.”

“The bias in me hates it because the smaller hurts the Toyotas even more,” said Denny Hamlin. “Our horsepower range is a little bit lower. It just makes the two-car tandem, in my opinion, more important with the smaller the plate that you go.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. addressed the changes after wrecking his primary car early in Wednesday’s opening practice session as he and teammate Jimmie Johnson closed on a group of slower cars.

“They keep slowing the cars down and it makes a car drafting normally much slower, and now the closing rate on the two-car pack is even faster; and I mean it’s just hard. It’s just real hard,” he said. “opefully there’s no more accidents this rest of the week. We can all; we’re all kind of getting the hang of it, but the guys that aren’t, in a two-car pack, need to be aware that those guys are going to come flying up on them faster than they think. And you’ve just got to keep that in mind and hold your line.”

*NASCAR Alters Tapered Spacer For Nationwide Cars*

After Aric Almirola and Tony Stewart posted practice speeds of 200.303 mph and 200.236 mph – faster than the Cup cars – NASCAR opted to go with a smaller tapered spacer on the carburetors across the board. According to various reports, the change cost teams about 20 horsepower.

The change did not have the effect NASCAR had hoped for, as in the evenings second session saw Tony Stewart post a fast lap of 202.238 mph, Brad Keselowski at 202.234 mph and two other cars over 200 mph.

During the session, Carl Edwards told SPEED he expects NASCAR to make more changes in an effort to reduce speeds.

Those efforts continued following the day’s second practice when it was announced they would implement restrictor plates on the Nationwide cars beginning Thursday.

*Visibility Issues Nothing New*

Following Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout it was evident by driver comments that visibility in the two-car draft was a major issue. With the cars tucked under one another in the two car draft, that second car is dependent on the voice from of above in the form of his spotter. In many cases one spotter was doing the job of two, calling the shots not only for his driver buy also the other car in the two-car tandem.

Spotter Brett Griffin posted on his twitter account (@31n2spotter) following the race, “It’s like a normal race but it’s 2 cars instead of 1…spotted more for #29 and #33 than I did #31.”

Denny Hamlin described it by saying, “the whole game change, not just the way we drive, but the way the way our spotters spot.”

“It definitely was a complete game-changer and for me, the visibility was very, very tough,” Hamlin added. “It’s no different than Talladega. The only difference is the track is much wider than Talladega so you can see your barriers quite a bit more between the inside line and the wall. With Daytona being so narrow — honestly, it’s only got one set of dotted lines around the corner instead of multiple like other race tracks so when you’re in the middle of the corner and you’re not around any dotted lines, you don’t know where you’re at. You don’t know if you’re close to the apron — you don’t know if you’re close to the wall. It’s definitely like driving blind for sure, but we just rely on our feel to kind of fix that.”

When the new body style was introduced, many drivers complained the rear wing was the root of many of the visibility issues. Yet, with the rear wing now replaced with a spoiler, nothing has really changed.

“The spoiler is far bigger than the wing,” Jeff Gordon pointed out. “In order to make the same aero numbers, down force numbers and drag numbers as close as possible as the wing this is the size spoiler they had to come up with,” said Hendrick Motorsports’ Jeff Gordon. “It’s not just the spoiler; it’s the height of the deck lids. Over the years, if you look at the manufacturers’ production cars, as well as what makes the best down force and what looks the best is a higher deck lid. That’s just a trend in cars in general. That just makes it harder to see the cars like we used to years ago.”

“When you get behind a car and you try to look through the windshield with as big as the seats are today, the head surrounds, where the mirror location is, the diagonal bar, all those things I just don’t know how much [a clear spoiler] would help,” Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton said. “It may help you see hand signals, but I think that would be it. This thing about not being able to see through cars precedes the Car of Tomorrow. I can remember being at Talladega many years ago saying, ‘I cannot see.’ The width with this car got worse. You can see less around the car, but as far as seeing through the car it’s really no worse.”

While the visibility issues is nothing new to NASCAR the two-car draft being used at Daytona has only made the issue worse.

*ESPN Crew Denounce Tony Kornheiser Comments*

During Tuesday evening’s edition of ESPN’s show Pardon the Interruption, talking heads Tony Kornheiser and fill-in host Dan LeBatard accused NASCAR of fixing Sunday’s Daytona 500 qualifying session to put Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the pole for the tenth anniversary of his father’s death.

Discussing their 2011 plans, ESPN’s NASCAR broadcasters Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, along with Vice President of Motorsports Rich Feinberg, blasted their ESPN colleague for his outlandish comments.

“It wouldn’t matter who said it or what network it might have been on, but it pisses me off that somebody thinks that from being inside, and knowing how hard a lot of years that myself and a lot of others that I worked with and around, worked on our race cars to try and make them the best,” said Dale Jarrett. “All you have to do is look around throughout the history of the sport at crazy things that happened. You get in a wreck with somebody one week, and the next week you qualify side-by-side and you’re in a truck riding around the track together. Did NASCAR plan that? Why hell no. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in a very good race car down here. He’s always run well here given good equipment. He’s my pick to win this race. Was it because it’s the 10th anniversary of his father’s death? Well no, it doesn’t have anything to do with that. It aggravates you that that perception is out there. I can assure everyone that it can’t happen. To set something up, there’s too many people that would have to be involved. You couldn’t keep something like that quiet. It’s unfair to the competitors and to the people who work their tails off to put a quality product out there. We have a very good sport with a lot of integrity out there and to have it questioned is unfortunate.”

Petree was just as adamant in his defense of NASCAR and criticism of the comments made on PTI.

“We’re hearing opinions of people who really have no idea,” he said. “This is my 30th Daytona 500 that I’ve come down to. I have spent a career trying to get an advantage under the hood or anywhere I can with that car. And I’ve done it with numerous drivers – Dale Earnhardt Sr., Harry Gant – and I can tell you I’ve never, ever in my life seen anybody get the call to have something done to their car. These guys are too smart in the garage area. You’re working right next to every team in there. If I saw something on somebody else’s car that I thought wasn’t right, I’m going to be the first one to make sure somebody knows about it, and they’re going to do the same thing to me. That’s not possible in this garage area. The integrity of this sport, I can vouch for after 30 years of doing it.”

*Like It Or No, Yellow Line Rule Is There For A Reason*

At the end of the Bud Shootout, NASCAR penalized Denny Hamlin for going below the yellow line to complete the pass on Ryan Newman. Instead of celebrating in Victory Lane, Hamlin was moved back to the last car on the lead lap. As a result, the issue of the yellow line has been brought up once again, but the consensus seems to be the rule is there for a reason and it should stay.

“The only people that want to do away with the yellow line rule at any point of the race are people that never race without the yellow line rule,” said Jeff Burton. “The reason that we have the yellow line rule is because we need a yellow line rule. I must confess, when the yellow line rule was first floated I thought that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my life. After doing it for a race, I thought that is the greatest thing we’ve ever done.

“The yellow line rule is there for a reason,” Burton added. “Without the yellow line rule, trust me its five-wide getting into turn three with people on the apron. It’s people on the apron through the tri-oval. Its people on the apron getting into turn one. There’s a reason that we have a yellow line rule. There’s no value, no logic other than pure bravado to try to take the yellow line rule out. That theory would be along the same lines if football players didn’t wear helmets it would be really cool because we could see them bleed. It would be that same logic.”

At the center of the controversy – if you want to call it that – Denny Hamlin said the rule needs to be enforced on both ends of the spectrum, not just for those going below the line, but also for those forcing others down there.

“For me, coming to the checkered, it’s hard for us drivers mentality is not to use every bit of race track that we have to get to the line first,” Hamlin said. “For me, I think that’s what makes it so exciting. Some of the most exciting passes that we’ve had in NASCAR is guys nipping down to the grass just about to make a pass. I think there’s something to be said about that. Take me out of the equation, there’s some great finishes that we could have had.

“Really, the part about if you’re forcing a guy down then you may be black flagged — that’s probably the least used rule in NASCAR’s rule book,” he went on to say. “The guy who forces somebody down, and I’m not particularly talking about Ryan (Newman), he’s the one that’s causing these wrecks. He’s the guy who’s forcing these wrecks to happen. I wish that was used a little bit more, if I guy knows that you dart your car down there and force a car down there, if they’re going to keep the yellow line rule then he needs to know that he’s subject to a penalty. Right now, I think everyone just assumes that there will be no penalty because it’s never been implemented before.”

*Mears Blows Motor In Second Practice*

Casey Mears blew a motor under the hood of his No. 13 Geico Toyota in Wednesday’s second Sprint Cup Series practice of the day. Unable to switch engines before the end of the session, Mears will have to race his way into Sunday’s Daytona 500 in the Gatorade Duels since his qualifying lap was not fast enough to lock him into the show.

*Engine Changes Force Hamlin And Johnson To Rear For Duels*

Both Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson will drop to the end of their respective Gatorade Duel qualifying race after the teams opted to change engines following Wednesday’s practices.

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