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Minter: Will The New Rules Affect The Duels?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 11 2010
Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin chat the old fashion way in garages on Wednesday. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin chat the old fashion way in garages on Wednesday. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Daytona Beach, Fla. –  NASCAR is doing its best to spice up things this season, with new rules, or lack thereof, on aggressive driving and bump drafting. And now there’s a good chance that there will be more than one try at a green-white-checkered-flag finish if the situation warrants.

But will the racing really change substantially? And will it change in today’s Gatorade Duels and in Sunday’s Daytona 500?

From what most are saying, and from the crashes in practice on Wednesday, there will be plenty of action on the track, but the cause is still a matter for debate.

Denny Hamlin said the new chassis package, along with a bigger restrictor plate opening, is responsible for some of the action.

He said when drivers try to push one another, the front car isn’t as stable as it was before. And he said that with the increased speeds the cars aren’t stuck to the track as good as they were before.

Jeff Gordon said the one rule, if adopted, that will result in wrecks for sure is the green-white-checkered change, which will allow more than one attempt to end the race under green.

“They could do 10 green-white-checkereds and we’re still not going to make it to the checkered,” he said. “All you’re going to do is set yourself up for another wreck. You give us two laps out there under green, and we’re going to find a way to wreck.”

Jimmie Johnson said drafting rules won’t be a big factor at Daytona, other than possibly contribute to more wrecking.

“From my seat in the race car, we weren’t pushing each other through the turns here anyway,” he said. “It is just something you can’t do. Although the rule has changed for Daytona, I don’t see it. It isn’t a big deal to me. I don’t see the drastic swing in things. I think it is great to see. I think the fans are very excited to hear it.

“But, we saw the other night, what happens with bump drafting in the turns, you just have big wrecks. Where you can do and it is helpful and it puts on a good show is Talladega. So when we go back to Talladega in the spring, it would be more of a fair opportunity to have an opinion there. But here, we will just tear stuff up.”

And Johnson said that a shift in NASCAR’s enforcement policy won’t necessarily change behavior on the track.

“They have honestly been telling us this stuff for a long time for a couple of years,” he said. “They continue to remind us about what is going on. But I think the fact that we race each other every week, we have corporate situations to be concerned about, there is a lot of things that frame in each driver to where they are with their own personalities and stuff.

“I think that once something does happen, I think there is a better chance that it will last longer now because of the encouragement from NASCAR, but I don’t see this changing anyone’s mind to ‘You know what, I just feel like starting an issue with someone. I am going to go wreck this guy then we are going to live it out through the media for four or five months.’  That stuff is not going to happen. But that stuff has already been around.”

Former team owner and crew chief Ray Evernham said  some of the early wrecking at Daytona this year is due more to handling issues than policy changes.

“Some of the wrecking we’re seeing here is guys getting used to this new chassis package, and the fact that these cars change speed quicker than they did,” he said. “They’ve been dead for so long, and now they’re getting a little throttle back and they guys are getting used to it.”

Evernham said that while he doesn’t advocate wrecking race cars, neither does he like drivers being told, as they were before last year’s race at Talladega, how to race.

“There’s got to be a happy medium,” he said.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 11 2010
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