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NASCAR tweaks cars following practice
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
NASCAR wasted no time making modifications Thursday after the first day of testing for the Daytona 500.
Despite speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour (202.402 mph), NASCAR increased the size of the restrictor plates to 15/16th inches from 29/32nd inches to add more horsepower and make the cars less stable for prolonged tandem drafting.
NASCAR also lowered the pressure relief valve from 30 psi to 25 psi and will decrease the size of the grille opening by one inch on each side to 3.5 inches by 18 inches which will force the tandems to disconnect for air.
While Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said NASCAR wasn’t “typically anxious to make a lot of changes prior to the Daytona 500,” the outcry from fans opposed to tandem drafting has forced the sanctioning body to derive a solution.
Nine drivers drafted on Thursday with Kyle Busch topping the speed chart with a lap of 202.402 mph. The longest that teams were able to maintain the tandem was eight laps but the drivers would maneuver the back car in order to get air through the grille.
Despite the changes, Busch didn’t notice a dramatic change with the cars.
“There’s some different elements — the drivers really have to work hard trying to make sure that you stay connected and that you can get air into the intake for the radiator,” Busch said.
Carl Edwards anticipated that the new changes will make for a “wild” practice session on Friday. But he says he’s in favor of higher speeds, less grip and making the cars more difficult to drive.
“At the end of the day, NASCAR walks a fine line of — I believe they do — of making the cars hard enough to drive that they're not in a giant dangerous pack and that people aren't super aggressive with them,” Edwards said. “So they've got to make them hard enough to drive that we drive down the corner and we aren't quite sure what's going to happen with the car.
“You know, it slides, and then they don't want to make it so hard that the race is — one guy runs away from the field and it's not exciting for the fans, because let's face it, the fans come to Daytona to see an exciting, crazy race, a pack of cars or two cars teamed up, and that's what fans — it seems like to me that's what fans come to see.”
Early in the afternoon session, Clint Bowyer found out just how unstable the cars could be when he attempted to change positions in the tandem from driver to pusher from his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Mark Martin. Consequently, Bowyer lost control of his car.
“It was squirrely,” Bowyer said. “We went to switch (driver and pusher) — and away I went. Looking at it, I think you have to make the change or the switch earlier. It was pretty late in the corner. But hey, it didn’t tear too much up — a little worse than I thought it did.
“I definitely think you’re going to have to switch more often. The spoiler is what got me. I thought it would make the cars go faster to where the back car wouldn’t hook up. It just made it drive worse. But the reward is worth the risk — because we're talking two seconds (faster a lap when the cars are in tandem).”
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