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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Daytona testing live on Speed

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Juan Pablo M...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Seeing the race cars back on the track for Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona was a healing prescription for the off-season doldrums. Thanks speedtv.com for the very accommodating live video stream during the morning sessions and afternoon sessions televised for three consecutive days.

This little tease may make the next thirty-five days even more difficult as we wait for the first official race—the Budweiser Shootout on Feb. 18. The Daytona 500 is forty-three days from now, on Feb. 26.

NASCAR has implemented many changes for the 2012 season. One change that I don’t agree with has to do with radio communication. Drivers can no longer access other drivers, their teammates, or crew chiefs other than their own, during a race. As a fan, I admit it was often times difficult to monitor the action on the track, since I can access only one driver at a time. But I would gladly sacrifice my access in favor of safety. I have to agree with something tweeted Friday by Kenny Wallace when he called the change “dumb and dangerous.”

My only reference point here is when I listened to Ryan Newman--which I always do--talking to Denny Hamlin on the radio when the two of them were running in tandem. Newman, who was being pushed by Hamlin, gave Denny a heads up over the radio about what he was about to do, such as going to the inside or passing other cars on the high side. Since Hamlin couldn’t see through both his and Newman’s windshield, it was like he was driving blind. I think that information through communication made for safer racing overall. Without that communication, I think the driver in the rear will have a more difficult time of it. Oh there will be hand signals, but I’m not sure that is adequate or entirely safe.

This and many other changes were implemented by NASCAR, supposedly to make the racing better for fans and less costly for car owners. We don’t yet know how that will affect the racing. One of the goals though was to cut down on cars driving in tandem for 500 miles at Daytona and Talladega. Personally, I didn’t mind watching that style of racing, however, I can imagine it is frustrating for the drivers. Driving should be an individual activity, not reliant on someone else to make judgment calls and similar decisions.

The result of the changes so far, seem to be faster speeds, less tandem racing, and an overall better product. In addition to the radio communication, other new mandates include a smaller opening in the restrictor plate, a change in air flow through the radiator, shorter spoiler, larger shark fin, and electronic fuel injection engines.

We probably won’t know how the performance will change during the 2012 racing season based on this weekend’s testing. All we can hope for is that our favorite teams figure out how to take the best advantage of all they learned.

The rules were not the only changes. With all the team changes, it will be difficult, for example, to recognize A.J. Allmendinger in the Penske Racing’s #22 car. Former driver Kurt Busch is now in the Phoenix Racing #51 car. How strange will it be to see Kasey Kahne in the #5 car formerly driven by Mark Martin and Kyle Busch before that.

The first cup runs by Danica Patrick look really promising. How exciting it will be to see a woman running with the boys at the front of the pack. Go Danica!