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Daytona 500 testing: 17 drivers putting Goodyear's stuff to the grindstone for next year's NASCAR season opener

  Dejected crew chief Tony Gibson (L) surveys the remains of Ryan Newman's Talladega car. NASCAR officials react to Sunday's controversial 500 by blaming ABC announcers for describing the race as boring. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   FORT WORTH, Texas
   While the recriminations and complaints continued around the NASCAR world about Sunday's Talladega 500, with its surprisingly boring single-file racing, and a couple of well-anticipated flipping crashes, and Jimmie Johnson sealing his fourth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Talladega winner Jamie McMurray and 16 other drivers finished up two days of Goodyear tire testing at Daytona Tuesday, in a major check for tire wear, which invariably is an issue early in SpeedWeeks.
   Without the usual two weeks of January Daytona 500 testing, this may be the only chance drivers and crews get to check out the Daytona track.
   The 2010 season opener is set for February 14th.
   Meanwhile angry reaction to Sunday's Talladega 500 continues to reverberate. These headlines will give you a sense:
   "NASCAR shoots itself in the foot at Talladega again"
   "Talladega still a house of horrors"
   "Rules won't fix what's wrong at Talladega"
   "No-bump zones at Talladega stir more controversy, protests"
   "Wake me when the race starts, or ends, whichever comes first"
   "NASCAR neutered Talladega"
   "NASCAR: Bad day at the office"
   "Talladega proves rules don't lead to safety"
   "Sorting through the NASCAR carnage at Talladega"
   "NASCAR fiddles with 'Dega, but bump-drafting ban isn't the answer"
   "Worst case scenario for NASCAR at Talladega"
   "The fix is in, except when it comes to the real problems"
   "Ryan Newman was right, NASCAR was wrong"
   "NASCAR isn't what it used to be"
   "NASCAR's response to 'Dega criticism doesn't satisfy"
   "NASCAR needs to address all the Talladega issues after disappointing race"

    Whether the Monday-Tuesday testing at Daytona provided any answers to the situation remains to be seen. Among the men testing at Daytona: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, David Ragan, Sam Hornish Jr., Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann, Marcos Ambrose, Regan Smith, A.J. Allmendinger, Scott Speed, Erik Darnell, Paul Menard and Sterling Marlin. Drafting sessions included 15 to 30-lap runs.
    Kurt Busch said the point was to try to simulate race drafting as closely as possible, though that's really difficult without all 43 cars on the track: "When you run two or three cars by themselves in a simulation draft, it doesn't do it justice -- until you really push everybody out there together, to get cars sliding...to have some cars pushing, to have some cars on the loose side.
   McMurray, a 2007 winner at Daytona, tested for Goodyear at Daytona in May: "In May they made the restrictor plates bigger to simulate the same lap times as in the draft, and that didn't show the same wear. That they brought so many cars this time...the cars are not driving really that good, they are sliding around a lot, and Goodyear is able to get a lot more accurate data by having so many cars."
   So what's Jimmie Johnson's take on Sunday's Talladega 500?
   "We didn't want to wreck.  We knew we were going to wreck.  We knew we were going to cause a big wreck; it's just what that racing does," Johnson says. "And everybody was minding their manners and being responsible up until we could see the checkered flag essentially. And that's when things started to get crazy and we crashed.  
   "We're using a different style of car that was supposed to make the racing more exciting at these bigger tracks, and really all tracks, and it has made it more exciting and allows us to close and make passes on the restrictor plate tracks…but it also is the exact thing that causes the big wrecks. 
    "We went to a smaller restrictor plate to help keep the cars on the ground and make them safer (this time at Talladega).  That didn't work.  
   "I hope people realized we have messed with enough in the garage area with cars, threatening drivers, regulating. Some people think they're over-regulated, other people think we're under-regulated.
   "But the bottom line is we're going to have these issues until we're required to let off the gas going into the turns. 
    "I don't see any way possible, with the safety rules that we need to pay attention to for the safety of the drivers and the fans, and the way the cars are built, that we can do that without eliminating banking in the corners.  
   "I was just on a phone call with Mark Martin not long ago, and he said for 15 years now he's been saying to people who would listen: that they need to take the banking out of the corners and make us lift. 
   "I think finally the overwhelming public is understanding and starting to recognize that you can't change the cars any more.  You can't scold the drivers any more.
    "We're going to ride single-file for 490 miles and make it boring and then wreck everything at the end. 
    "So the only way we can get the racing to change is by changing the track.  It's the only thing left. 
   "We've messed with every other area and nothing has worked."  


   Just hours after finishing that controversial race at Talladega, winner Jamie McMurray (L) and Kurt Busch are at Daytona, with 15 others, testing Goodyears Monday and Tuesday for the 2010 Daytona 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


the problem is that ISC /

the problem is that ISC / nascar don't have any downside to the plate races. Now if ISC / nascar were paying for the cars that get destroyed at the plate races they'd start to look for other ways to fix the problem. It won't be until you hurt ISC / nascar in the wallet that we'll see change.

A good start would be for all the car owners who hauled junk home from Dega to send nascar the bill for the lost cars. Stewart / Haas 2 cars -- $400,000. Hendrick Motorsports --- 2 cars --- $400,000. Just those two teams would slide $800,000 out of the pockets of the Beach Boys. Think they'd start to pay attention then? To quote a famous politician -- "you betcha".

This is simple --- put the financial responsibility where it belongs. Change would come within hours.

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