If there is one thing that is evident to this fan, it is that this Daytona 500 is going to be about as unpredictable as any in recent history. Oh sure, there will be those that will tell you they’ve all been unpredictable, especially since the changes NASCAR made over the years like restrictor plates and then the COT cars, but though highly criticized, most everything they’ve done has made the race safer and more interesting.
With the introduction of Electronic Fuel Injection to the Cup cars, many didn’t know what to expect but it really didn’t change much. Yes, there a re still some unknowns as to how it will change the strategies and competition for the 500, but from this fan’s view, fans are going to see a great race. The EFI change will mostly be noticed by the engine builders and not from the stands.
Whether it was the Duels on Thursday afternoon, the Camping World Truck race on Friday night or the Nationwide Series race Saturday afternoon, racing this weekend at Daytona has been different, and yet, has remained the same. There has been plenty of action and drama along with a lot of torn up race cars.
Probably the most noticeable change this year was the return of “pack racing.” That in itself has brought back a dimension to the Daytona Super Speedway this fan has missed for a couple of years. Once the drivers discovered the two car tandem allowed them to go faster, the racing was interesting and good for a while but quickly became less exciting over the whole race. (Well, even I have to admit, the restarts were much more exciting while everyone tried to hook up with their chosen drafting partners.)
The two Duels revealed at least two possibilities for this afternoon’s race. The first showed how the changes made by NASCAR to the cooling systems and the aerodynamics made the cars a bit more unstable and did accomplish minimizing the two cars tandems. There was a lot of two and three wide pack racing, also two car tandems and again, a lot of torn up race cars.
The second showed how things can get a bit strung out at times and saw a bit more separation than the first but there weren’t as many torn up cars. It also showed how the changes to the cooling system might have an effect on the whole race this afternoon. Because the air temperature at race time for the second Duel was a bit higher than during practices, many drivers noticed their engines were running hotter than expected. They quickly found they (maybe I should say the Chevys in particular) couldn’t run the two car draft without highly elevated water temperatures. This caused some to lay back and lose ground to the front runners making sure they ran cool to the end. In the end it was a two car draft at the front in both Duels and that may be the only predictable thing about the 500.
As I said at the beginning of this article, this afternoon’s Daytona 500 will be unpredictable and I am standing by that. There are just too many variables. I expect to see at least one “Big One” but it will more likely be nearer the end. When that does happen, (and I’m sure it will) it could quickly lead to another one on the next restart. I do expect to see the Ford’s running strong all day and contrary to some, I expect most of the Hendrick camp to be right there in the mix at the end.
The salvation for the engines today just might be the cooler weather that’s expected. If it is cooler, it means we could see racing a lot like the Nationwide Series went Saturday afternoon. With cooler air temperatures we just may see a lot more of the mixture of the two and three wide pack racing along with more of the two car draft. However it goes, I expect the end of the race may not be pretty and there could be a major “Big One” coming at the flag stand.
Yeah, I know the Fords have looked strong all weekend and it is possible we could hear the name Carl Edwards a lot this afternoon. Although I expect her to make a good showing, I don’t think Danica will end up in Victory Lane this afternoon. This is anybody’s to win and everybody’s to lose.
Because I really do believe anybody can win this one, I don’t want to pick a winner, but it is very possible Jr Nation could come away from today very happy…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 26, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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