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Restarts Could Turn Up Heat In Daytona

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 3 2009
Racing on a plate track. It could get even wilder with new restart rule in place this weekend.

Racing on a plate track. It could get even wilder with new restart rule in place this weekend.

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Some old NASCAR rules and a new one will be put to the test this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

This weekend’s race are the first to be run on a restrictor-plate track using the new double-file restart format. From what most drivers say, the difference between this race and others is that the key to the restart line-ups will be which drivers are in the second row on back.

It sound backwards, but it really isn’t given the dynamics of racing in the draft.

Under the new rules, the leader gets to choose whether to restart on the inside or outside line. That decision likely will be based on the positioning of the drafting help available behind him.

“The front row is going to be determined on what the second and third row is,” said Kyle Busch. “You’re going to restart in front of whoever you feel like is going to be the best ‘pusher’ to restart with.”

Busch said it’s going to be the same in the Nationwide Series, which for the first time will be using the new rules for double-file restarts in which the leaders start side-by-side up front with the lapped cars at the back.

The new rules also are expected to split up teammates who might find themselves running 1-2 when the caution flies. No matter which line the leader chooses, the teammate will be put in an opposing position, at least initially when racing resumes.

“It will separate teammates, and you’ll have to go wit h whatever lane you’ll feel like the best ‘pushers’ are going to be – whether it’s the guy who’s in third or fifth, or the guy who is in second and fourth,” Busch said.

But Tony Stewart pointed out that even if the leader has a choice there’s no assurance that he’ll make the right one.

“You’ve got a 50-50 chance,” he said.

NASCAR’s overall rules for restrictor-plate racing haven’t been changed even though some called for modifications after Carl Edwards’ car sailed into the catchfence after contact with race winner Brad Keselowski on the last lap at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this year.

The consensus is that there’s just not much that can be done that would guarantee an improvement.

“I have no idea of what to change or what could change,” Busch said. “If you said, ‘If you were the guy in charge of NASCAR for a day what would you change about restrictor-plate racing?’ I don’t even have an idea. It’s too complicated. There are too many different scenarios that can always play out.”

“The rules are the rules and if Brad Keselowski wants to be Brad Keselowski and hold his line and dump Carl Edwards in front of the grandstands – then that’s Brad Keselowski’s [decision],” Busch said. “Would I have done the same thing? Probably. 

 “But, ultimately, sometimes you’ve got to think a little bit more about the scenario you’re in rather than the race you’re going to win.”

Matt Kenseth also said he didn’t know of any rules changes that would work.

“You’re going to have wrecks, no matter what the package is,” he said. “They want to make it to where you can pass, and to make it pass, you’ve got to make [the cars] to where they can suck up to the next guy.

“If you get sucked up to the next guy, and you’re going to pass and the guy cuts you off and spins [you] out, whether you’re going 190 or 195 of 185 [miles per hour], I think the results are all going to be close to the same.”

Ryan Newman said he wished there had been some changes made since Talladega, particularly in the area of roof flaps and other devices that keep cars from becoming airborne.

“I wish there would have been some changes development-wise,” he said.

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 3 2009
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