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Is A Pack Mentality Returning To Plate Tracks?

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 13 2012

Large packs of cars made a return visit to Daytona International Speedway on Friday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The big experiment continued on Friday at Daytona International Speedway as drivers took to the track in a relatively big pack for the first time under the current rules package, which includes a larger restrictor plate as of Friday morning.

Speeds were considerably faster than before, with Kurt Busch setting the early pace with a lap at 206.058 miles per hour.

Also of interest was the ability of drivers like Matt Kenseth, running by himself, to chase down the pack from a half-straightaway behind.

According to the early reports, drivers said the racing at Daytona was getting back to like it was before the repave, before the two-car tandem came into play.

“It is about half way to the old pavement, the feel of it,” Edwards said. “You drive down the corner and my Fastenal Fusion was sliding just a little. I didn’t really have to lift off the throttle.”

The big objective of the Preseason Thunder test session is to find a way to get drivers back in the big packs that fans say they prefer and to limit the emphasis on the two-car tandems. Edwards said he believes NASCAR and the teams are getting close.

“I think if the cars were either just a little faster or had a little less grip then we would get to that old Daytona feel where you would get in the corner and have to lift a little bit,” he said. “I guess there are a lot of things being discussed with RPM, plate size, rev limiters, down force and all this stuff. That is what testing is for and I am glad NASCAR is trying all this stuff to let us see what may happen.”

Edwards said the water temperatures don’t appear to be adversely affected by the smaller radiators and narrowed grille openings, as long as a driver isn’t pushing another car for an extended period of time.

“We were real low on water temp,” he said. “I think until you really get right up against that car in front of you water temp is not a factor. It doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal.”

But like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a lot of other drivers, Edwards believes that the winner of the Daytona 500 likely will get to the finish line with the help of a pusher.

“Let’s look at this realistically,” he said. “Two cars, unless there is some major change in physics or car design, are going to be faster….

“I don’t know how you are going to take this race, with this restrictor plate, and keep it from being the winner wins by being in a two-car draft. It is very difficult. I don’t envy NASCAR’s position but I think they are doing the right thing going through all these motions and trying to figure this out.”

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 13 2012
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