The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing tagged speed limits to Daytona 500 qualifiers just as they completed fast laps on the glass-smooth track at Daytona International Speedway a week before they go fender to bumper.
It seems the problem is that tandem fender-to-bumper runs create speeds that exceed 200 mph by five or six mph.
Suddenly racing at Daytona took on a tango-tandem look that lasted for many laps, so NASCAR announced restrictions to stop that after qualifying on Sunday.
Doug Yates, engine builder, explained the changes.
“Speeds are too high, which is a big concern,” Yates said. “It looks like NASCAR is trying to break the cars up and they’re trying to limit how hot we can run these engines. They’re gonna limit the front-end opening and put a pressure release valve at 33 PSI, which is gonna bring down the operating limits of the engine. This rule change it’s gonna bring down how hot we can run them and it is concerning.
“If the driver is pushing somebody, he has to pay attention not only to what’s in front of him, but also to his water temperature gauge. He has to know when to get air to the nose, so whenever you put that much emphasis on the driver watching the gauges, you open yourself up to some potential failures just because it’s not easy to do.”
Jamie McMurray commented on the upcoming DUEL 150 races at DIS even before NASCAR made intake changes on race car noses.
“If it's hotter on Thursday because they're going to limit how hot the cars are going to get," McMurray said. "It was so cool tonight when the car would get 275 degrees you could peek the nose out and my car would go back down to 230 in a straightaway, and if it's 40 degrees hotter on Thursday, it's not going to do that.”
Ryan Newman and McMurray, second- and third-place winners in the Budweiser Shootout at DIS, had opinions on speed.
“Whatever we've worked on with our liftoff speed, if the car is going backwards, sideways, whatever else to keep the cars down, that's what NASCAR needs to focus on for making the race safe,” Newman said. “If the cars get airborne at 140 we'd better not cross 139, so I don't know what that number is. I don't know if there is a true number out there, but if we were doing 212 and the cars were safe and we could keep them on the ground, then that's fine with me.”
McMurray makes a valid point, sometimes overlooked.
“I think if NASCAR decided they wanted to put a smaller plate on, there's not going to be anybody upset about that because you can't tell the difference,” McMurray said. “It's not going to make the racing any different if you make the runs you get at 199 or 206. You can't feel a difference, and it's not going to change anything for anyone.”
For the fastest qualifiers, the mood was up before new rulings came down, but the changes are not likely to interfere with their eagerness to get the green flag for “America’s Greatest Race.”
Dale Earnhardt (No. 88 Chevrolet, No. 1 qualifier)
“To be on the front row again for the second year in a row, we are real proud of that," Earnhardt said. “It is going to be a tough race to win. We're going to work really hard. The main thing it does for me is it takes a lot of pressure off for the Qualifier. I can just go out there and have fun and try to just have fun winning the race.”
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet, No. 2 qualifier)
“I know everybody talks about how hard you work, but these guys just pay so much attention to detail. And that’s why they’ve been on the front row here the last couple of years,” Gordon said. “It sure does make it nice to have a good starting position and I hope we can maintain one here.”
Trevor Bayne (No. 21 Ford, No.3 qualifier)
“I can't thank this Wood Brothers team enough and everybody at Ford Racing and Roush Yates for helping us prepare a car like this to bring here,” Bayne said. “I think this will show everybody that we've got an awesome race car and they can work with us.”
Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet, No.4 qualifier)
“This is a fast car race car,” Menard said. “The guys at RCR built awesome race cars. We are so far ahead of the curve right now. Slugger and the boys gave me an awesome race car today.”
Clint Bowyer (No. 33 Chevrolet, No.5 qualifier)
“Our Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet is fast,” Bowyer said. “Would love to have that pole for the Daytona 500. But no matter where we end up, it was a great effort for this team. We will just take it a step at a time. I am very proud of the guys.”
FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com.
Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com