February 16, 2011
NASCAR aims to slow down Daytona
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
DAYTONA — NASCAR bosses have decided they’ve seen enough of Sprint Cup cars hitting speeds of more than 205 m.p.h. at Daytona International Speedway.
So on Wednesday they issued an order that the restrictor plates on those cars will be made smaller, slowing them down by as much as 10 m.p.h in some cases.
The new plate will have holes 57/64ths of an inch in diameter, 1/64th of an inch smaller than what was used in the Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500 qualifying.
The smaller holes mean less air into the engines and less horsepower when drivers hit the gas on Daytona’s high-banked 2.5 mile oval.
This comes on top of NASCAR’s move to limit the amount of cool air intakes on the front of the cars, which officials hope will limit the two-by-two racing that dominated the Shootout a week ago.
Not everybody agrees that the measures will be effective once the racing gets hot and heavy on Thursday in the Twin 150s that will decide the line-up for everybody from the second row back for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
The front row of Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and teammate Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet, was set in time trails last Sunday.
“We’re going to be focused on whatever it takes to win the race,” four-time champion Gordon said after NASCAR’s announcement.
“We’ve been seeing that the two-car pushing has obviously dominated practice and the racing so far with the Bud Shootout and it’s going to continue to do that.
“To me, the smaller restrictor plate only makes it easier to push. And then (they) narrowed down the opening and the pressure valve and all that stuff, we’re not going to be able to push as long, but we’re still going to push.”
Gordon’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports — five-time champion Jimmie Johnson — has a different take on the restrictor plate change.
“I completely understand the position that NASCAR is in and have talked to (president) Mike Helton plenty about changes and ways to help keep the speeds down,” he said. “I have certainly seen the process and respect the decisions that have been made and only time will tell.”
But the racer in Johnson admitted that he would just as soon have no restrictor plates at all and let horsepower and driver skill decide races at big tracks like Daytona and Talladega.
“I think in general, we’d all like to have no plate on the car which we all know is impossible,” he said.
“But, the speeds, we know what happens with cars at 195 m.p.h. or whatever it was Brad (Keselowski) and Carl (Edwards) wrecked at Talladega (last season).
“You add 10-15 m.p.h. to that, that is going to be even worse. So I understand the process and look forward to getting on track and just knowing what these new rule changes are going to do and how the cars are going to drive.”
Former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman said that it was his opinion that NASCAR had no choice but to cut the size of the restrictor plates to make it an even playing field for everyone.
“The best way to slow the speeds down is the restrictor plate,” Newman said.
“That’s the same for everybody ... The restrictor plate, with the way the rules are now, seems to be the common denominator for speed across the board.”