Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: NASCAR Now Accidentally Tells The Truth

As usual when there is not that much going on in the sport of NASCAR (nothing going on that they will let me say anyway), Brian France has once again come to my rescue.

Earlier this week, France was a guest on ESPN’s NASCAR Now program and, surprisingly, was actually complimented by at least one internet blogger who noted, that this “…was one of France’s best TV appearances in years. The rumpled hair and open collar was replaced by a professional appearance that included a suit and tie. His answers were focused and made sense. That has not always been the case.”

While prior obligations prevented me from actually viewing this particular one of a million NASCAR themed broadcasts, I was able to read a few transcripts and view a few videos (enough to realize I didn’t miss all that much) and I have to admit that Brian did look pretty snazzy. As for being focused and making sense, well, maybe they caught him early in the morning before it became “noon somewhere.”

One bit that I did find quite revealing was when panelist Allen Bestwick asked France a question that was foremost on the minds of fans via that amazing “OMG I can’t live without it” thing called Twitter. The question concerned the new two-car style draft racing we have seen at Daytona and Talladega so far this year.

“The truth is that while it’s different, it’s just what we like,” France replied. “It’s close and competitive with spectacular finishes and record lead changes. It would be hard to us to say that we want any more out of those big speedways.”

Oh! Is that right?! Nevermind the fact that roughly 90% of the people I’ve talked to, or heard talk about, don’t like this new style of racing. Forget about that, that is not important. What IS important is to take a trip down memory lane.

Feb. 12, 2011 (as reported by the Virginian Pilot and ESPN.com)

No restrictor-plate change for Bud Shootout BUT air hose change: NASCAR will NOT change the restrictor-plate size for tonight’s Budweiser Shootout, Cup Series Director John Darby said Saturday morning, but NASCAR is making a change in hopes of slowing the cars. Ten drivers hit 200 mph or more – led by Joey Logano’s lap of 203.087 – in Friday night’s practice session at Daytona International Speedway. Drivers were aided by cooler evening temperatures, a resurfaced racetrack and the ability to run several laps in a row stuck in a two-car track, building momentum and speed around the 2.5-mile speedwday.

Here’s what NASCAR will do, according to Darby: “There’s a couple of fresh air hoses that a lot of the teams added – that are OK, it’s not something that they did outside of us knowing about it – and we’re just taking them back off,’’ Darby said.

“If the cars can heat up a little quicker to where we can limit the amount of laps that they push each other for all the reasons we’ll probably have a little better race out of the deal. At tracks other than Daytona and Talladega you would have a brake duct installed and run air hoses to the brakes. Nobody uses brake cooling here, so in the same real estate, we said, all right, go ahead and put a couple of hoses in here to help to get some extra air to your radiator and oil coolers. We don’t believe it’s needed for a normal, functioning race car on the race track, so we’re going to take it off.’’

Asked about concerns with laps exceeding 200 mph, Darby said: “It’s all relative. The only way they get that fast is to do multiple laps of two-car pushes to where the momentum continues to build. The exact same racecars with no change, no plate change anything else in a conventional drafting pack are currently running about 193 mph. So, that’s what you’ve got to watch and look for.’’ (Virginian Pilot)(2-12-2011)

Typically, when speeds cross the 200-mph barrier at Daytona or Talladega, NASCAR goes to a different restrictor plate that causes less air flow to the engines and slows the cars down. NASCAR officials elected not to in this situation but did make a small change. Air hoses that were added to the cars this week will not be allowed. Teams have reached higher speeds by lining up in two-car breakaways in which the rear car pushes the front car. That move quickly causes the rear car to overheat after a few laps, so teams were allowed to add additional air hoses to help cool the engines.

Those hoses will be removed, which NASCAR hopes will cause the rear car to back off after a couple of laps. But no one knows for sure how it will work or whether it will limit the two-car breakaway runs. Restrictor-plate changes or other rule adjustments still could come before the Daytona 500 next weekend, depending on what happens in Saturday night’s race and how fast the cars go next week in practice and the qualifying races. (ESPN)(2-12-2011)

Feb. 13, 2011 (again from ESPN.com)

NASCAR tweaks rules to limit drafting: NASCAR officials announced two technical changes Sunday evening aimed at preventing the sustained two-car drafts that dominated Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition, said the body issued a bulletin to race teams with the following specifications:

• The maximum size for the air inlet for the cooling system will be 2.5 inches tall by 20 inches wide.
• The pressure release valve on the water system will be set at 33 pounds per square inch.

The intent is to set up the cars so they can’t push each other in two-car tandems for extended runs without overheating. Teams try to line up drafting partners at Daytona and Talladega so they can overcome the limitations of the restrictor plates used to keep speeds down at those two tracks. “That will bring down the temperatures so the teams can’t run at 290 or 300 degrees [without overheating] on the extended push of 30 or 40 laps,” Pemberton said.

“This will put [the water temperature in the engines] back in the 250-degree range.” Several drivers, crew chiefs and team executives expected NASCAR to control the pressure relief valve. Jamie McMurray, who finished second to Kurt Busch in the Shootout, said many cars had valves that allowed the temperature up to 300 degrees before boiling over. That allowed the second car in the two-car draft to push longer without overheating – some for more than a dozen laps – under Saturday’s cooler outdoor temperatures. The weather is expected to be warmer for Thursday’s qualifying races and the Daytona 500.

Feb. 15, 2011 (Engine builder Doug Yates on rules changes)

“Obviously, as we ran practice and the Bud Shootout those speeds are too high, which is a big concern. Second, NASCAR doesn’t like the way the guys can push other cars for many laps. So, I think the first objective with these rules changes is it looks like NASCAR is trying to break the cars up and they’re trying to limit how hot we can run these engines. As a result, 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.

“What we’ve done this morning, probably like other shops, is we’ve gone to work on the dynamometer and understanding the system and we’re working to optimize what we can, so when we go back we can have a safe, reliable race. The engines are turning more RPM than we had planned and what we feel comfortable with, and they’re also gonna run hotter, so with this rule change it’s gonna bring down how hot we can run them and it is concerning.”

Is anyone’s memory starting to come back to them? From the time the cars took to the track, NASCAR freaked out and did everything humanly possible to break up the two-car draft style of racing! I could go on but I don’t have to. Simply go to that swell site called Jayski’s and click on the February 2011 news link and start reading! Even by the time Talladega rolled around, NASCAR was still unsure of what to do!

So here we are, a short two months later and suddenly Brian France tells us it is everything they have been dreaming for?

Go ahead, Brian, keep your head stuck in the sand or bottle or whatever else it may be stuck in. Keep on ignoring the fans – and like ignoring your teeth – they will soon all go away!

Stay off the wall, (but not the fluoride!)

Jeff Meyer

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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