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Daytona Notes: 500 Could Have Steamy Sub-Plot

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 24 2012

This year's Daytona 500 could be a hard one on engines and nerves because of the new rules. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tom Copeland)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Engine temperatures continue to be a concern heading into Sunday’s Daytona 500.

A rule change designed to limit drivers from pushing fellow competitors for more than two laps has left engine temperatures approaching the danger point.

It’s resulted in a return to the pack racing that fans seem to favor.

But it’s also led to sleepless nights for engine builders this week as they continue to evaluate if their powerplants can sustain severe temperatures for 500 miles.

“I’m not necessarily saying we need to lobby for anything just because if you give us more opening to cool down, then we’re going to be pushing again,” said three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon, when asked on Friday if he plans to speak to NASCAR about the cooling issue. “So, I would prefer to have to deal with this than to be pushing throughout the whole race.”

The air temperature is expected to reach the upper 60s in Daytona on Sunday. Because the temperatures soared into the upper 80s on Friday, Kevin Harvick was one of a large contingent of drivers that chose to forego turning laps during Sprint Cup practice two days prior to the Great American Race.

“We think we know what we want to do (about the cooling issue),” said Harvick, who will start 13th in the 500. “It is just a matter of looking at all the final numbers of temperatures and things like that. Sitting with the engine guys and just see how hard they feel like they want to push it.

“We’ll just make a decision off of that.”

Harvick appeared content when asked if he’ll miss not seeing a Kevin Harvick Inc-owned vehicle in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. He and his wife DeLana sold the team at the end of the 2011 season.

“I’ve pretty much turned that page,” Harvick said. “I watched practice yesterday and didn’t even see the No. 33 or the No. 2 or any of those go by.

“I don’t even consider them mine anymore. I’m one of those people that once I am done with something, I’m done with it. You move on. You roll forward. I’ve had a couple of months to get over that. It is just a new page.”

Bud Shootout winner Kyle Busch claims he has no special plans for a post-race celebration should he win the 500 on Sunday.

“No, I don’t,” said Busch, who typically bows to the fans at the start-finish lines following his wins. “To me, you don’t try to plan for something like that because you could end up being like Dale Earnhardt or Darrell Waltrip — I know it was Dale who went 20 years before he won it. I know Mark Martin hasn’t won it.

“You don’t want to plan for anything thinking that you have a chance to win or thinking that you are going to win. To never be able to use it — you just have to let it come to you.”

Sunday’s winner of NASCAR’s premier event will be whisked away on a multi-day media tour around the country next week.

So is Gordon prepared for the whirlwind tour should he be the first driver to the checkered flag in the 200 lap event this weekend?

“Hey, I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” Gordon said.

“If you win the Daytona 500, you know that there’s a lot that’s going to be thrown at you but it’s all worth it.”

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 24 2012
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