NASCAR Budweiser Shootout: 10 Lessons We Learned Over the Weekend in Daytona
The Budweiser Shootout is in the books and before the tires cooled on Kurt Busch's No.22 Pennzoil Dodge the stands, media and the garage were buzzing with anticipation for the 2011 Daytona 500.
Speed was a key word among drivers and NASCAR officials before and after the Budweiser Shootout. The speeds during the Bud Shootout were shattering the 200-mph barrier when the cars teamed up in two car breakaways.
"This is unbelievable," said Busch, "I have to thank my motor department and Jamie McMurray. You have a friend like that, that's what it takes. He's my teammate of the day."
It was evident two-car breakaways are now the way to get around Daytona and also a way to break through the magical 200-mph mark NASCAR wants to avoid. The following 10 lessons were learned in this year's Bud Shootout.
No. 10. Tires Will Not Be an Issue
Goodyear did not want to be embarrassed by the new pavement at Daytona, and they responded to the challenge by bringing a long-lasting tread to this year's Daytona Speedweeks.
Despite a cut tire by Jamie McMurray, which is believed to be caused by a broken brake rotor, all other incidents were believed to be caused by driver errors.
There is one issue though for teams in regards to the longer-lasting tires. It takes longer to fuel cars in NASCAR Sprint Cup with the new gas can being used this season.
One possibility that could arise from this new development is that teams with fewer resources will stretch their fuel and tires longer and pass on short pitting situations. This will lead to less talented drivers up front on restarts and fireworks will ensue.
No. 9. New Asphalt Is Flat-Out Fast
The new pavement at the Daytona International Speedway looks sharp but it is also leading to the fastest speeds ever on a restrictor plate track.
NASCAR knew they were in trouble during practice this weekend for the Bud Shootout when Joey Logano and Kyle Busch ripped off a lap of over 203 miles per hour and they immediately implemented a change.
For the Bud Shootout NASCAR limited the air to the engine to slow down the cars. Kasey Kahne may have been the first victim of this adjustment when he blew up the motor on his No. 4 Red Bull Toyota.
No. 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. "With Two Car Breakaways Anyone Can Win"
Dale Earnhardt Jr. downplayed capturing the pole position on Sunday. When Dale Jr. appeared on NASCAR Victory Lane on Speed he summed up the Daytona 500 in a simple statement.
"With the speed on this track and the two-car breakaways, anyone can win this race next Sunday," a smiling Dale Earnhardt Jr. stated.
What did Dale Earnhardt Jr. mean with this statement? It is simple. Two teams can team up, blast up front quickly and side draft off other cars to find more speed down the straightaways.
No. 7. Drivers Must Stay In Line Perfectly Or Disaster Will Ensue
Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip gave a perfect display of what will happen if the lead driver twitches the slightest bit when they are running through a turn wide open.
Tony Stewart and Waltrip were matching up well in the Bud Shootout when Michael Waltrip moved up the track just a few feet off line with Stewart's bumper.
Waltrip slid sideways and Stewart was not collected in the accident, but it was a great display of what will happen if drivers lose concentration for a fraction of a second.
No. 6. NASCAR Will Make Changes Before Thursday's Gatorade Duels
NASCAR has not announced they will restrict more air to the NASCAR Sprint Cup engines but the biggest surprise will be if NASCAR stands pat with the restrictor plate package that was run in qualifying and the Bud Shootout.
The air flow restriction NASCAR introduced to the front air dam before the Bud Shootout made no impact on speed. NASCAR will be talking to owners and crew chiefs all week leading up to the Gatorade Duels but a decision is expected by Wednesday.
No. 5. Gas Can Strategy & Ideas During Bud Shootout
The new fueling can will add strategy and create different pit strategies than we have ever dealt with at Daytona. The new fueling can takes longer now and it eliminates the catch can man. The catch can man was always the man that made adjustments with the wedge wrench on pit stops.
Now with one less man over the wall the responsibility for adjustments will come down to the rear tire carrier. The issue will be more noticeable during a 500 mile race.
The 10 minute break during the Bud Shootout allowed teams to open the trunks of the car and see how the fueling apparatus worked under race conditions.
No. 4. Two-Car Runs Were 10 MPH Faster As They Ran Up Field
Two car breakaways displayed good and bad results. The drivers had incredible speed in the two-car breakaways but the driver pushing the pack could not see.
If anything occurred ahead of the second car in the two-car breakaway, they had no opportunity to make a quick decision to save their car.
Pushing in the Budweiser Shootout was the most vulnerable position any driver could put themselves in. Spotters were unneeded for the driver pushing, which led to some interesting solutions to the problem.
Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick hooked up during the Bud Shootout and opened up their communications between each other. the lead car would tell the car pushing where they were going and the car pushing would tell the lead car if another tandem was pushing their way past them.
No. 3. NASCAR Announced After Bud Shootout Changes To Cooling System
NASCAR announced in the wake of 206 mile per hour speeds during the Bud Shootout that they would be making several adjustments to the cooling system on the engines.
"I thought it was cool at the beginning, medium in the middle and when they hit 206, I wasn't thinking of the race anymore, I was thinking what we needed to do in the next couple days,'' NASCAR VP for Competition Robin Pemberton stated after Saturday's race.
NASCAR will continue to regulate the front grill opening on all the cars to 2 1/2-inches by 20-inches and they will also install a pressure relief valve that caps at 33 PSI in the water cooling system.
Pemberton stated the idea is to decrease the temperature the engine water will boil. Some cars could run water as hot as 290-300 degrees. Pemberton is looking to get it down to 240-250 degrees.
This change will cause cars to bail on extended two car hook ups and will have drivers searching for clean air more often. Will this work?
Look for more motor issues late in the Daytona 500 and if more than five engines are lost in the Gatorade Duels, look for another solution to emerge.
No. 2. NASCAR Set Standard Or Painted Themselves In Box?
Denny Hamlin went below the double yellow line to cross the finish line first in the Budweiser Shootout. He made a dive below the double yellow line because he had a run on Ryan Newman and would have wrecked the top four cars if he remained in line.
Rules are rules according to NASCAR and now they have unwittingly painted themselves into a corner. To be fair to NASCAR, this is not the first time this decision has been made. Regan Smith had a life-changing win taken away from him in 2008 at Talladega for the same infraction.
Brad Keselowski made reference to Smith's disqualification in 2008 as the reason he kept his foot buried and his line true as he stayed above the double yellow line and sent Carl Edwards into the catch fence at Talladega in 2009.
The incident led to several fan injuries and fortunately no fatalities in the stands. Let's hope this same catastrophic accident is not repeated for this year's Daytona 500.
No. 1. Daytona 500 Will Be Unpredictable & Exciting
One thing is definite for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500. It will be the most unpredictable Daytona 500 of all time. With all the memorable finishes and races in the Daytona 500, this may be one of the wildest in the storied history of this event.
Two-car breakaways, uncertain fuel mileage and possible pit strategy scenarios will lead to amazing racing and some seat of the pants decision making that will create a historical finish.
Jeff Gordon said it best during the last caution of the Shootout,
"I figured it out," he said. "This is like playing chess on the edge of a cliff with the wind blowing 50 mph gusts."
Gordon does have it figured out. Daytona has always been a crap shoot with a few laps to go but now more than ever a driver can make a tremendous run through the field and come from off the pace into the lead with a fast pusher.
Buckle those seat belts, everyone. We will see a different Daytona 500, but wild and exciting in a new and different way.