Testing at Daytona International Speedway is now complete. The purpose of the test was for race teams to work on their cars in preparation for next month’s Daytona 500. NASCAR also used the test to try and bring big pack racing to the superspeedway.
Over the last season many fans have indicated their displeasure with two car tandem drafting and wanting the more traditional Daytona and Talladega pack drafting. For those who are not familiar with two car tandem drafting, that is where two cars following tightly together are between 2 and 6 MPH faster than a big pack of cars.
We saw some pack drafting only because NASCAR requested that the teams that were present for the test participate in some pack drafting. When these requested sessions were not going on all of the teams either completed single car qualifying runs or two car tandem drafting with their teammates. This is a telling indication that none of the drivers think pack drafting will win the race. The two car tandem drafting will.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said “Maybe, just maybe you don’t have to be in the 2-car tandem to stay in the lead pack,”. When asked about 2 car drafting Jeff Burton said “I hope it stays. I like it.” When asked on Twitter if he liked 2 car drafting or Pack drafting Greg Biffle responded “I prefer big pack racing”. Either way it looks like some form of 2 car drafting will occur during the Daytona 500.
It won’t be for lack of effort on NASCARs part. They changed everything. They reduced the pressure of the pressure relief valve (Pop off valve) which reduces the maximum temperature the engines can run. They reduced the area of grill opening in the front of the engine which further reduces engine cooling and as such the amount of time two cars can stick together. They also changed the location of the opening to reduce the capability to do a two car draft. These changes decreased the difference in speed between a two car draft and pack drafting. It did not eliminate it.
One last item changed throughout the three days of testing was the restrictor plate. The restrictor plate limits the amount of air flow to the engine and therefore horsepower and speed. This has nothing to do with drafting but more to do with safety and longevity of the engines. The cars were going well over the magic 200 MPH number so the plate was changed to slow the cars back down. Look for this change to be undone next month as the temperature will be warmer requiring more air to the engine.
None of these changes will be the actual package or rule for the Daytona 500 but they will be close. When the Daytona 500 comes next month it will be a lot warmer so many of the changes may be too drastic but NASCAR has the data and a good starting point. The bottom line is we will see some pack drafting but we will also see a lot of 2 car tandem drafting next month in the Daytona 500.
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