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After the Talladega political mess, what to expect for the Daytona 500?

  NASCAR's John Darby, checking a rear spoiler (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Even before Sunday's controversial Talladega 500, NASCAR officials were already testing ideas for next spring's Sprint Cup season opener at Daytona. And the two key changes planned, at the moment, are to give drivers more horsepower and smaller rear spoilers.

   "They've got to have less grip in the race cars," Denny Hamlin says, looking ahead to the Daytona 500. "And the way to do that – they will cut down the rear spoiler quite a bit, and that will take the back-end grip away from the car. So when you're pushing up behind some guy (as the pushee in a draft), you'll end up wrecking him (if you get too close), because he's already on the (aerodynamic) edge."
   Certainly that much was obvious in the teammate-teammate crashes at Talladega: Tony Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman wrecking, Marcos Ambrose and teammate AJ Allmendinger wrecking, Michael Waltrip and drafting buddy Bobby Labonte wrecking.
   "And they (NASCAR) will add some more horsepower," Hamlin goes on.
   "By doing that, they will make the cars go fast enough that handling will become an issue."
   On the super-smooth Daytona repave handling wasn't that much of an issue this season. And Talladega has been super-smooth too over the five years since its repave; but then handling has never really been an issue at Talladega.
    "When handling becomes an issue, the two-car tandem will no longer be an issue," Hamlin says.
    During last week's Thursday fuel injection test at Talladega, NASCAR experimented with cutting the rear spoiler by half an inch. "But I think they need to cut it a full inch," Hamlin says.
   "Our spoilers are just so big they plant the back of the car."
    Safety? "They will figure out how much it is safe for us," Hamlin says. "We'll still try to push; but we'll end up wrecking the guy in front if we do."
   How NASCAR addresses the Daytona-Talladega horsepower issue is unclear, with the planned changeover from carburetors – and carburetor restrictor plates – to electronic fuel injection.
    But Kyle Busch, Hamlin's teammate, points out that the current NASCAR stocker will be dropped at the end of 2012 and a new design model is to debut in 2013. "So I hope they're smart about it,"  Busch says of any possible rules changes. "With this car becoming obsolete at the end of next season, we don't need to be spending a lot of money on big changes for a car that will only run in four more races (the 'plate' races)."
    And Joey Logano, Hamlin's third teammate, who did the NASCAR rear spoiler test at Talladega, says officials have their work cut out trying to figure out Daytona 500 rules if the goal is to eliminate two-car drafts.
    Team owner Jack Roush has suggested NASCAR mis-match the bumpers at Talladega and Daytona, so cars can't push each other. But Logano points out the Trucks, which do have mis-matched bumpers, still figured out ways to push-draft at Talladega last week.
    When running the shorter rear spoiler in the Talladega test "we ran a second quicker by ourselves," Logano said, because the cars obviously carried less drag. "And we're still going to push (each other in two-car drafts)."
    For comparison, Matt Kenseth turned the fastest lap of the Talladega race, at 197.313 mph (of course in the draft). A car running a second faster would be running 201.6 mph.
     More horsepower for Daytona and Talladega?
     Logano says using a smaller rear spoiler would require NASCAR to opt for a smaller restrictor plate too (or similar in fuel injection), to offset the better aerodynamics.
    "If you take rear spoiler away, you can't give us a bigger plate, because then we'd really be hauling ass," Logano says.
    "I guess they're trying to get us to stop pushing. But everyone has that figured out now; it works for everyone (even Trucks).
    "When they cut the spoiler down, it did make it harder for us to stay together (in a two-car draft). It was harder for the trailing car to stay there. But I didn't really feel any difference in handling.
    "But look at the ARCA cars -- you can't even get to the guy's (rear) bumper, without him hitting the brakes. There's a gap between every car.  Because they punch a smaller hole in the air. But those races are so boring...."
    AJ Allmendinger, who had his own problems at Talladega, referred to last Sunday's action as "stupid two-car racing."
    When asked how to break up the two-car drafts, Allmendinger said -- somewhat facetiously - "They need to break up the race track at Daytona and make it so it's bumpy and slick.
   "Slick it up.
    "And why can't we just take Atlanta pavement and put it on Daytona's pavement?"
    Indeed, Atlanta's 10-year-old asphalt compound is considered by teams as almost the perfect asphalt for racing on -- because it allows three grooves of racing, and tires give up over a run.
    The asphalt compounds used the past several years in repaving NASCAR tracks have a much tighter 'pack,' making for a smoother track. Goodyear has wanted Atlanta to repave for several years, but drivers have resisted.
     Otherwise, Allmendinger says there is no good solution. "There is too much grip on the track, so I don't think it (any of the proposed solutions) is going to matter. I really don't.
   "The cars simply don't move around.
   "So I think they ought to make the bumpers so they don't line up. If you can't push, then, well, you can't push.
   "If you know that somebody can run (draft) into the back of you and get you all jacked up, then you're not going to back off and let 'em get to your bumper.
    "But it's not going to break up any two-car packs if you know it's faster.
    "With those old cars you couldn't draft like that because you'd turn each other."
    Ryan Newman, who like Allmendinger didn't have a good Talladega race, says there is no good solution for Daytona-Talladega. "I guess it depends on what the fans want...and I'm not sure what they want," he said. "Some of them may want the big crashes, but I'm not signing up for that.
    "Talladega...I think there has been a definite decline in the excitement...but the racing was decided by 18/thousandths of a second.
     "So as long as we race cars at those types of tracks, and try to keep them within a certain speed window, of 190 to 200 mph, we are going to be in the same type of situation that we are -- no matter if you cut the spoilers, or change the restrictor plates, or whatever.
    "You are still keeping a car at that speed...which is big on crashing, because you are sustaining that speed all the way around the track, instead of a place like Michigan where your top speed is about the same but your mid-corner speed is significantly down."
    And Newman's opinion on what NASCAR might do?
    He demurred: "I would rather not use my opinion on that...because it has not been taken into consideration so many other times."
    In fact last year when Newman griped about Talladega racing he got slapped with a secret $50,000 penalty by NASCAR.

   Yet more fallout from Sunday's Talladega 500:
   The TV ratings.
   Apparently they're not in yet from Nielsen, according to ESPN, which says any TV numbers released are "inaccurate" because of technical issues, which ESPN says it hopes Nielsen will fix.
   The Talladega 500 each fall typically boasts the best viewership of all the championship playoff races.
   "Nielsen is still in the process of sorting out the coding issue that affected all ratings on ESPN and ESPN2 for a multi-day period this past week," ESPN says.
    "The period included the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega, and any ratings numbers that have been reported in the media for that event are inaccurate."
    The NASCAR Talladega numbers Nielsen has released say that the race was seen by just over four million viewers. The TV viewers for the 2010 Talladega race on ESPN, 5.2 million. The TV viewers for the 2009 Talladega race on ABC, 6.6 million.

It's obvious that leaving the

It's obvious that leaving the fix to NASCAR is going to be an exercise in futility as has been proven in the past. Maybe the better move would be to get the engineer and crew chief from the top 20-25 teams together to brainstorm and come up with reasonable options that actually will make the drastically needed changes. But then France, Helton, Pemberton, would pretty much need to admit NASCAR short comings in design and implementation. Maybe just this one time BZF can stuff his ego long enough to fix the show for the fans. Then again, maybe not.

NASCAR Has Pooled Drivers & Crew Chiefs Before

NASCAR has "pooled" the drivers and crew chiefs before and it never came up with anything that worked. And just what are you looking for as far as "fixing the show for the fans?"

Plate racing

There is a very easy solution for fixing the restrictor plate racing problem: a bulldozer! Tear Daytona and Talladega up and build a couple top notch one mile tracks that will produce great racing. If you want something totally different than anything else, build a track that resembles the now demolished 1.8 mile Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet trapezoid shaped track in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (it was demolished to make space available for the now2016 Olympics. I saw several good CART races and IIRC a couple F1 races on TV from that track.

One mile tracks cannot

One mile tracks cannot produce great racing. Daytona and Talladega produce great racing; restrictor plates produce great racing; the 2-car superdrafts produce great racing. Richmond and the G-readings from wrecks that outdo restrictor plate hits by a long shot showed that Daytona and Talladega are lightyears safer.

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