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Monday, February 14, 2011

NASCAR tweaks rules after unique Bud Shootout

After Saturday night’s Bud Shootout … which I can only call interesting … I had an image in my head of a very strange Daytona 500. Would the biggest race of the season feature an endless stream of sustained 2-car drafts, as opposed to a big pack – thus producing the strangest looking 500 ever?

Well, it’s still possible, but much less likely after NASCAR has tweaked its rules to limit those sustained 2-car drafts. On Sunday, NASCAR officials issued a bulletin to race teams with the following specifications:
"The maximum size for the air inlet for the cooling system will be 2½ inches tall by 20 inches wide.
" The pressure release valve on the water system will be set at 33 pounds per square inch.”

What that means to the non-mechanic is that the cars can’t push each other for long periods of time without overheating. This change will also calm those concerned with another issue – speed. With less pushing ability, it’s highly unlikely the 206 mph speeds we saw in the Shootout will be repeated in the 500. This is mainly an issue because once you get to 200 mph, the cars are much more likely to flip in the case of an accident. So by lowering the speed a little, it’s less likely the fans will get an upclose view of a car in the catchfence or worse.

As I said, the Shootout was a very unique race, and as someone who’s watched restrictor plate racing for over 15 years, I can honestly say I never saw a race like that before. They were even more glued to each other than usual, for longer periods of time (so much so, in fact, that a couple of wrecks happened unexpectedly from people who were “helping” each other).

I couldn’t decide if it was boring or interesting, and the truth is that it went back and forth between the two depending how the cars were lined up. (my favorite part was the Kyle Busch pass of the entire field at the start finish line; only to be shuffled immediately back when he didn’t find a partner up front).

I think NASCAR is wise to tweak things a little, as the 2-car group setup would be very strange to run for a full 500-mile race, and I don’t think it’s what they want to put out there. Whether these changes actually get rid of that setup, though, is something we’ll have to wait and see. Either way, it’s already been a very interesting Speedweeks.

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