Teams await final Daytona rules package

BY Jeff Hammond • January 17, 2012

So the three days of testing is over at Daytona International Speedway. In talking to the teams earlier this week, they are all now waiting on NASCAR to notify them what the final package will be for the Daytona 500.

Waiting on that obviously makes everyone a little apprehensive. Time, naturally, is short and so the teams want to know.

You have to remember that teams have been working on their Daytona package since basically August of last year. Now here we are in the middle of January and they possibly are facing revisions and changes. When you throw that in on top of the things they knew were coming, like fuel injection for 2012, you can see where the teams get put right behind the eight ball.

I am hoping that NASCAR will find a happy middle ground from all the testing data and get the rules of what is allowed to be raced issued soon. On the flip side of that, I also hope they don’t rush it to an extent where once we get to Daytona, they are backed into a corner and make the teams change things yet again.

I lived through that first-hand in 1989 when Goodyear had to pull out at the last minute and we had to switch over to Hoosier tires before the start of the Daytona 500. Obviously that is a huge change, but I’ve seen what most folks would call subtle rule changes, like the size of the restrictor-plate opening that also has a huge impact.

Basically what something like that does is wipe out months of work. You build an engine precisely. You set a car up exactly. So when changes are made in the 11th hour, it pretty much compromises a team’s entire winter work. So these teams need to know as soon as possible what the Daytona package will be so that they can get their cars and engines right for when they come back to Daytona in just a few weeks.

If you listen to the driver interviews from testing last week, you clearly can see the drivers are split on those that like the pack racing and those that like the two-car tango. Some don’t care. Their point is they are race car drivers and they’ll adapt to whatever they are given.

Personally, I think we are going to have a great Daytona 500 whether it’s with pack racing, two-car tangos or a combination of them both. What will not be good is if we find all the changes to the cooling of the engines don’t work and folks start blowing up left and right. That would create a nightmare for the competitors, the folks in the grandstands and naturally our NASCAR on FOX viewers.

A storyline I definitely want to follow is how these teams react once NASCAR issues its final package for Daytona. I am curious to see where it puts some of these teams – either ahead or behind the curve or maybe somewhere in the middle.

Trust me, the switch over to fuel injection is a big enough curveball for these guys. Having to go back and chase RPMs, maximum plate horsepower and water temperature add potential hazards we should be able to avoid. Again, I don’t want us to be right up against the Daytona 500 and realize we have a major problem.

Like I said a few weeks ago, to me this is the Season of the Unknowns and we are already going down that path. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing. It’s just right now, things will be so new and no one has the answers. It will take some time for it to all play out.

But believe you me, there are a lot of nervous nellies back at all these race shops waiting for the final results to come down from NASCAR. When changes are made this late into the Daytona preparation, trust me I know first hand, it causes an extreme amount of heartburn and many sleepless nights.
 


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