What We Learned From The Gatorade Duels

Mike JonesCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2009

Now that the dust is gone from an action-packed day of racing at Daytona, it's time to look into Sunday based on Thursday's races.

The first thing is, well, the racing is good, but will probably be boring during the mid-stretches come Sunday. In the second race, we saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. lead a considerable portion, and as usual, the veteran drivers formed a single file line, which broke away from the pack.

But don't let the 75-100 laps of boredom get to you. Tires held together reasonably well, but often wore down before pit stops were needed for gas. We can, and should expect, a lot of green flag stops. I don't see two tires being the main choice, but will definitely create a little cat and mouse as far as pit strategy goes.

When the drivers do want to race, there's grip, and a lot of it. One huge factor, though, was a substantial difference in fast lines for turns 1-2, and turns 3-4. Coming through 1-2, the fast line was generally on the bottom, and that line tended to move pretty quick when two wide.

Going through turns 3-4 though, we had the opposite. The faster line was often to the high side, possibly due to the excessive bumps on the bottom of corners 3-4. Drivers coming through the pack might have some tough times if they are stuck in one particular line; bump drafting onto the super stretch will be key.

And if you want to get your car to the front, expect contact, and lots of it. Quite a few drivers tended to get a little too close to the bumpers and rear quarter panels, resulting in some dramatic saves.

Mark Martin so far has the save of the week award, as going into turn 3 yesterday, he was so sideways that everyone and their mother gasped as he aimed toward the back stretch wall, but brought it back under him, and shot his Chevy Impala SS into the lead.

Moral of the story: fast will be loose, and bumping fenders can get you to the front.

The final factor is the drivers who had the opportunity to race in the second qualifying race; they had the best long green flag runs under the same conditions that we will see Sunday, given the 3 p.m. start.

Those drivers had the best chance to see how a cooling track affects the already less than stellar handling in many cars. Look for those from the first race to be bugging teammates for some notes and advice.