I still get mad when I remember the season-launching Daytona 500 last February.
The damn thing took close to 6 hours to run, longer than the NFL Superbowl, and you know how happy I am with the general length of NASCAR races!
The 2011 edition of the Great American race could have higher speeds, better racing and closer finishes.
Drivers testing Daytona International Speedway for the first time since it was completely repaved agree NASCAR’s premier event will feature tighter packs — cars running 3 wide at nearly 200 mph — and increase the possibility for breathtaking wrecks.
“It’s going to be a lot tighter packs than I’ve ever seen,” defending Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray figures. “It’s certainly going to be more Talladega-type, really close, restrictor-plate racing. You’ve got to hope that you’re going to make it to the end because the odds of big wrecks happening are going to be really good, I’d say.”
The sport’s most famous oval completed its second repaving, the first since 1979, and drivers turned laps last week as part of Goodyear’s tire test.
The notorious gut-dropping bumps in turns 2 and 4 are gone, so is the ridiculous pothole that plagued the 2010 race, and pit road is wider for increased safety.
The result is a smoother track that causes less tire wear, creates faster laps and tighter racing.
Veteran Bobby Labonte declares, “It’s going to be more like Talladega!” “It’s going to lend to more pushing, more shoving, more drafting like that. Obviously, that’s going to lend to more things that could happen. Nobody knows that. If you sat here on a Monday and ran a 500-mile race with 43 cars and you did it again Wednesday and again Friday, you’d have three different races probably.”
18 drivers from 6 teams, including Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Juan Montoya took laps in the Goodyear test. Some teams brought cars and engines from last season, while others tested their latest technology, including ethanol-blended fuel.
All the teams used a slightly smaller restrictor plate than currently in use. The top speed was 197.5 mph, and NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said officials will evaluate testing results before deciding whether to reduce the size of the holes in the plate to pull the speeds back from the dreaded 200 MPH.
Teams will return to Daytona for a 3-day test late next month.
But general opinion across the board is that Daytona will be better and heck of a lot racier next season.
The old surface was like a rollercoaster ride, with bad line-shifting bumps and slippery seams. The cars were a handful to keep straight. The TV shots showing the front of the cars coming straight at the cameras were alarming, showing how violent the cars were being pitched sideways!
Jeff Burton thinks the way you race Daytona will change, hopefully for the better.
“This is more of chess game, ‘When do I get aggressive, when do I not get aggressive?’ ” Burton said. “A lot of times on the old surface, your car dictated when you could and when you couldn’t. What’s going to dictate this time is how many laps are left. The work-load’s actually going to be less. I think your brain will be tired, but I don’t think anything else will be tired.”
They improved the pits at Daytona too.
The repaving project included widening pit road considerably, creating more room.
Kurt Buch allowed, “Daytiona’s pit road was the most treacherous of all the pit roads that we raced on.. But it looks like green acres out there. It’s really a safer place on pit road. The environment for the crew guys will be much better and you won’t necessarily have to worry as much about getting the fender dings. I’m excited about it.”
One thing is clear. The arena has improved to the point we might not have another stupid stop-start-stop-start Daytona 500 on an old worn out bumpy, slippery race track with a hole in it.
At least we don’t think so anyway.
Have a great Christmas and a GREAT holiday y’all!