Repaved Daytona might have surprises
Following the repaving at Daytona International Speedway, some drivers have compared the track’s characteristics to Talladega.
Last year’s points runner-up Denny Hamlin, who posted the fastest lap on Friday with a speed of 196.868 mph, said his mentality for Daytona will be similar to what it was when Talladega was repaved.
“Except subtract four lanes of traffic,” Hamlin said. “It’s just going to be that much more exciting.”
Despite the new smoother surface, don’t expect the drivers to gain a false sense of security particularly when exiting Turns 2 and 4.
According to data from a tire test, if a pack of cars is pushing through Turn 2, said Tony Stewart, who posted the second-fastest lap with a speed of 196.855 mph, there is a tendency "to push the lead car out further on the exit than they wanted to be and toward the wall.”
“If that lead car goes in the wall, most likely the guy that’s pushing him is going to follow him right in it.”
Thursday’s first practice session was held before lane stripes were painted on the track. Later, after they were added, Harvick noted a difference in the placement of the yellow line, which separates the racing surface from the apron, between Daytona and Talladega.
At Talladega, said Harvick, who won the 2007 Daytona 500 in a dramatic decision and was also victorious in last summer’s Coke Zero 400, the yellow line is actually painted on the racetrack, "and the one here is off the racetrack on the apron.
“So yesterday I touched the apron and about wrecked, so I think that that’s going to be the biggest deal is just keeping your car off the apron."
Going into the corners, there used to be a more gradual transition between the apron and the banking at Daytona, Harvick said. "That, or it was just so wore out that you couldn’t really tell. But it seems like the apron is going to be a big deal if you touch it.”
NASCAR shared its latest safety discoveries Friday with drivers and crew chiefs.
Mike Fisher, NASCAR’s managing director of the research and development center; Dr. John Melvin, technical consultant to NASCAR for racecar safety, and Tom Gideon, NASCAR director of safety initiatives introduced new findings and answered questions.
The session covered a variety of in-car topics including car seats, leg support straps and tear-off posts on the sides of driver helmets, their effect in accidents and the depth of foam surrounding the seats’ head rests.
“The seat area of the car seems to be in pretty good shape,” David Reutimann said following practice. “The belts, the seats and everything we have going on here including the overall restraints — that they’ve been working on for so long and will keep making better — I think we’re in a real good place.
“Now they’re talking about intrusion. If you get in a bad wreck, like we saw with (Brad) Keselowski (at Atlanta in March) where the cage came down and things of that nature, that will be a further focus. Even though the cage came down — the bars above his head have to give a little — but they maintained their integrity.
"While they feel that this (seat) area is really safe, now there is a concern about something coming in. I don‘t think there was anything groundbreaking because what we have now is pretty good.”
The NASCAR team also explained the most recent development of SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers — including the recent installation project on the backstretch at Pocono Raceway.
“They showed an illustration of Pocono and it looked completely different,” Reutimann said. “The barrier will be a lot closer to the racetrack, plus it will be paved in between. There will pavement before you get into the fence instead of all that grass now. Overall, the fence is much, much closer to the racetrack so that gives you less area to get a running start at it and hit it.”
FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES
The line of questioning for four-time NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon can be curious at times.
But the inquisition from his 3-year-old daughter after his altercation with Jeff Burton hit a new mark. Little Ella Gordon couldn’t understand why her daddy was in a tussle with a fellow driver on TV.
“She said, ’Papa, were you wrestling with another guy out there on the track today?’” Gordon said. “And I said, ‘Well, kind of.’ And she said, ‘Why? Why did you do that?’ And I said, ‘Well, I got angry.’ She goes, ‘Why were you angry?’ She wouldn’t quit. It was three in the morning and these things are on her mind. It just brings everything into perspective. It’s just so raw and so fun.”