NASCAR Competition Director John Darby - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
NASCAR doesn't want to see repeats of 2011's tandem running on the two restrictor plate racetracks it uses--Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, both long tracks built for high speeds.
Those generated high speeds have forced NASCAR to impose restrictor plates on the engines to slow them down below the 200-mph mark and have had the effect of nose-to-tail running by two cars in unison.
As a result, Sprint Cup Series race director John Darby and vice president of competition Robin Pemberton issued a technical bulletin effective for preseason testing on the DIS high banks and the subsequent Speed Week that takes place in February on the same track.
NASCAR officials intend to "detune" the cooling systems used on the Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota race cars, downsizing radiators from five gallons to two gallons; they'll also downsize accumulators (overflow cans) from one gallon to a half-gallon, the technical bulletin said.
Teams will have softer springs on the cars, will run a smaller rear spoiler and a slightly larger restrictor plate than last year of 29/32-inch. Darby and Pemberton believe the smaller radiators and accumulators will make the cooling systems less efficient and will stop cars from running tandem in the draft, forcing them to spend more time in fresh air in order to keep temps lower.
Recent Daytona and Talladega races have been festivals of drafting. Last year, in particular it appeared drivers were making deals to find a dance partner--and only one, not the two or three or more partners they'd had in the past--to effect drafting.
They would ride the banks together, pit together--was this a marriage or a race?--and trade positions of pushing a car or being pushed as temperatures rose and fell on the engine. This made for record lead changes, but seemed artificial at best. Fans recognized the lack of true racing throughout the field and showed their displeasure by staying away and complaining to NASCAR.
Still, finishes like rookie Trevor Bayne's final-lap dash in the Daytona 500 last February and Jimmie Johnson's last gasp victory at Talladega in April were spectacular, as was David Ragan's first win at Daytona in July and Clint Bowyer's win on the 'Dega 2.66-mile banks in October.
Teams will have a chance to test the new specifications on January 12-14 at Daytona before returning for Speed Week on February 17th.
The effect on engines remains to be seen, but the smaller radiator and accumulator should force crews to adopt new manners of dealing with a lack of cooling at the front of their cars in order to allow some drafting schemes, which have been part of NASCAR's racing culture.
© 2011 Anne Proffit