NASCAR makes changes to slow cars

NASCAR distributed a rules bulletin to teams on Sunday with changes to the front grille and pressure relief valve that regulates the pressure of the water temperature in the cars.

The announcement came one day after the Budweiser Shootout where speeds exceeded 206 mph as drivers tandem drafted throughout the entire event. The changes will discourage cars from pairing up for extended periods of time.

"We feel like 206 mph is probably a little too fast," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said Sunday.

NASCAR is changing the grille opening to 2.5 inches by 20 inches The pressure relief valve on the radiator will also be altered.

Jimmy Makar, vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs Racing, says the changes NASCAR is making won’t abolish two-car drafts, but it will decrease the distance drivers can maintain the tandems.

"Basically, they’re going to restrict the amount of air that’s going to flow through the radiator with a smaller opening in the grill so you’re going to get less cooling through your radiator,” Makar said. “That will tend to make your cars run hotter when you’re in the draft too long. It’s going to make you have to step out more often.

“The (valve) is going to keep you from being able to run a pressurized water system to where you don’t boil water as quickly. You’re not going to have the ability to run a lot hotter than 220 to 230ish (degrees Fahrenheit). It will drop that number down a little bit as to how hot you can run the motor before you start pushing water out.”

The bulletin announcing the change was issued after Daytona 500 qualifying.

Kevin “Bono” Manion, the defending winning crew chief of the Daytona 500, did not expect the alterations to have a dramatic effect on the racing.

“Earnhardt Ganassi already has the watering system in place, the regulation on the (valve) that we currently run and the amount of square inches on the grille is close to what we would normally run,” Manion said. “I’m not concerned with overheating … (but) hooking up for six, 10 or 12 laps will not be able to happen.

“The other day when we first went out, we had approximately 55 square inches open and we could push Juan (Pablo Montoya, teammate) for almost two laps. It almost gets us back to what we consider normal conditions like what you’d see in the past where someone gets hooked up and shoots out to the front, but then someone has to get off of them because they are overheating."

Rumors persist of a restrictor plate change, possibly as early as Wednesday.

"If you look at what creates the speed, the plate would be fine. If drivers never pushed each other, we’d be putting bigger plates on the cars," NASCAR’s Darby said. "That’s part of what we want to watch is how the cooling system changes and what the reaction is to it — and we may not have to change the plate. That’s what we’ve got to watch on Wednesday. If we were to change the plate, it wouldn’t be a huge difference. And at the end of it, that’s the simplest change we could make.

Manion, for one, believes it would be too complicated to alter the plate size or change the height of the rear spoiler considering that the Daytona 500 is just a week away.

“When you get into restrictor plate changes that gets all the engine departments, all the manufacturers, it get a lot of people involved, gearing, so there’s a lot more to it than just changing a restrictor plate," Manion said. "I don’t think they thought the speeds were way out of hand. I think racing in the daytime and everything it will be just about right.

"They have a tough job making decision and we’ll see how this one works out.”

This is the second time NASCAR has attempted to slow down race cars in two days. On Saturday, it removed an auxiliary air hose used to cool engines.