When Noah opened the turnstiles on the arc, the animals filed in two-by-two. When NASCAR opened the track at Daytona on Friday for practice for the Bud Shootout, the drivers flew around on the new pavement two-by-two.
Clumsy biblical references aside, the new drafting techniques brought on by the extremely smooth new pavement that is loaded with grip, and the resulting speeds are making NASCAR officials more than a little nervous.
It didn?t take long for the drivers to figure out that two cars, hooked together, bumpers touching, one pushing the other, can travel as much as 20 mph faster than one car alone. In the past, Daytona would produce long strings of cars locked in a tight draft, but no more. Conditions now make it almost impossible for three cars to stay together and one by itself is too slow, so it?s a two car tango.
In the cool night air during Saturday?s Bud Shootout these two car tandems resulted in speeds as high as 206 mph, something not seen at Daytona since the implementation of restrictor plates in the late 1980?s. And anytime NASCAR officials see 200 anything on the speed charts they start to get anxious.
That Dale Earnhardt, Jr?s pole qualifying speed on Sunday, running by himself, was ?only? 186.089 mph showed officials the need to try something to break up the two car draft and in doing so, keep the speeds below that magical and dangerous 200 mph mark.
The single limitation to two cars running tightly together for lap after lap is the fact that the ?pusher? doesn?t get enough cooling air into the radiator to keep the engine from overheating. To combat this most teams raised the pressure of the cooling system which has the effect of raising the boiling point of the water. Some teams reported water temps as high as 300 degrees with no problems.
So, on Sunday night, NASCAR officials issued a technical bulletin to all teams that will require two changes in the car?s cooling systems. One, the maximum size grille opening has been reduced to 2-1/2 inches by 20 inches. And the pressure on the cooling system must be set no higher than 33 pounds per square inch.
Both of these measures will decrease the efficiency of the cooling system and bring water temps back down in the 250 degree range which should limit the number of laps one car can stay right behind another thus making it necessary to break up the draft more often.
The next practice will be on Wednesday and then we?ll see if these changes have the desired effect. But whatever happens, one thing is sure, things are never dull when the ?animals? arrive at the ?arc? in Daytona.
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