I am joined once again, by our creator, Eric (gearhead), our resident statistician, Scott, and another passionate fan, Jen (JenX63). The four of us will try to answer some questions I figure some of you might have about the new car and the coming events.
Without further ado, let's get started.
1. If you watched the Sprint Unlimited, what did you think? Did we see enough to really judge the new car?
Jen: I watched and really did not get any notions one way or the other. I think I need to see the cars on all the different tracks. Did anyone else notice the bumpers no longer match up, with the manufacturers getting their little stamps, I noticed it during the shoot out.
Eric: I can't say that I did watch the race. I will say as a general comment on the new car that it's probably a good thing. When your series is for all intents and purposes spec, you have to keep evolving the car you use. Whatever the reasons the Car of Tomorrow was replaced, new car designs every five years ago is usually a good thing. Go much longer than that with one car and it gets old and stale. That is what happened with IndyCar, and why its fans were so happy to see the DW12.
Scott: I watched bits and pieces of it while I was bartending and to be honest, I wasn't a huge fan. The drivers seemed a bit too tenative in trying to figure out the combination of Gen 6, a clean track and the cooler weather and more times then not, it was nothing but single file racing with not many drivers taking any chances to pass.
Debi: I have to agree with you, Scott. They did seem really tentative to me as well. In fact, Tony caused the early wreck, and owned up to it, but it did seem like he was the only one driving "normally", rather than the "aggressively" that others thought.
Eric: Before I answer this, can someone help me out and explain what kind of blind spot we're talking about? Either way, that doesn't sound very good.
Debi: LOL Okay, Eric. The first I'd heard of it was after the incident with Matt Kenseth. Apparently, somewhere in his interviews after the fact, it was said that he hadn't seen anything, and he thought there must be some kind of blind spot. I don't know if it was a cop out, or an excuse, or what, but I saw it a few times.
Scott: I'm with Eric on this one. What blind spot are we exactly talking about?
Debi: *sigh* okay guys, I guess it is just a figment of their imagination. I did read that Kevin Harvick was wanting to have some customized mirrors installed in his car though, and have them approved before the 500.
Eric: Well, whatever it is, it sounds like it'll be up to the spotters to earn their money.
Jen: Dillner said there really isn't a blind spot (which i think is stupid to say) because every vehicle has them and in racing, exactly what are the spotters duties? To inform about cautions, side by side if their driver wants to move up or down the track (blind spot), accidents ahead of them. I have looked at both cars (this years and last years) and saw a minute difference. I don't think the drivers have "more" clearance, but I could be wrong. I am not in a car. Tony was just being aggressive, but thought he could parlay Kenseth's boo boo to help his cause. Watching Matt since he was in Nationwide, it just isn't his style to intentionally wreck another driver. Matt and his spotter are new to each other, there are going to be hiccups, hopefully not bad ones.
3. It's early going, of course, but Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards were both knocked out in the first segment wreck of the Unlimited. Is this a glimpse of their season? Or can either one of them rebound after both had such a crappy season last year?
Scott: I expect Jeff Gordon to be a bit more competitive this season. As for Carl Edwards, I'm anxious to see how the whole Ford stable does now the Matt Kenseth has moved on to Joe Gibbs Racing. I always thought Kenseth was the "brains" of the outfit and with him gone, Edwards and Greg Biffle will Ricky Stenhouse as the 3rd wheel. It should be an interesting year for Jack Roush.
Eric: Plate racing is so much different than everything else that I don't particularly put much stock in how it fortells the rest of the season, especially a race that doesn't actually count for anything. Gordon seemed fine putting it on the front row Sunday afternoon.
Jen: lol, ok, not funny really...nope, actually need a few more races, you know, like 15 at least.
Debi: I like to think you can actually tell as soon as they hit the track at Daytona, but I have to go with Scott, again. I am happy to see Jeff walking with a little more bounce to his step this year. As for Edwards, I think he had a peak season a couple of years ago when he fought neck and neck with Tony Stewart. It almost seems as if that second place finish defeated him a little.
Jen: Who? Really don't see her beating Jr anytime soon.
Eric: After 7 years of Danica-mania, I'm quite used to it. Have fun guys. She's all yours. ;)
Debi: OMG! I was sick of her as soon as they announced she was moving to Cup full time. I really wish she would take lessons from some of the humble drivers and stay away from the arrogant whiners! My mute button is going to get a lot of use this year. I`m just not sure who is forcefeeding us, the media or NASCAR!
Scott: Seeing as I am a firm believer in conspiracy theories, I'm not the least bit shocked that Danica won the pole for the race. It gives NASCAR a bigger boost heading into their biggest race and should draw more fans to watch. That said, I still think she finishes closer to the back of the field then the front when the race comes to the end
Debi: LOL the Black Helicopters are circling!! I predicted she`d finish last!!
Debi: I know this question was already kind of asked in the first question, but the Duels are their own kind of race. Most of the drivers are already in the field and are trying only to improve their starting position. There are a few, I think who may not be in the big race if they don`t finish well in the Duels though.
Scott: Because the bumpers of the respective cars aren't aligned the same, I expect quite a few guys and gals to get out of sorts in not only the duels but the race itself. Tandem racing seems to be a thing of the past and in it's place comes pack racing, which never seems to end well for a handful of drivers. Throw in the uncertainty of what the new car brings for a 500 mile race and you have a recipe for quite a bit of carnage this weekend at Daytona.
Eric: It seems like every year there's a different wrinkle in the draft at Daytona. From this description, it sounds like the lead isn't going to be the place to be on the last lap.
Debi: Is the lead ever the place you want to be on the last lap
Eric: Seems like it wasn't a problem last year. Can't say for sure other years. This isn't the 500 mile race I obsess over. ;)
Debi: You never want to be the leader on the last lap at Daytona, especially if Kevin Harvick is anywhere behind you. He is the king of "Where'd he come from?"
Jen: Nope they didn't. Nope they won't. Might make for a safer/slower 500....
Jen: To be a lot like the shoot out.....some bumping, a wreck or two...maybe not. It's the unexpected that makes me watch, even though I think they are redundant.
Scott: I don't expect anything too crazy for the duels. I expect a handful of drivers to try and make their way to the front to see which moves work and don't work but I really don't think anybody is going to completely show their hand to the rest of the field. We've already established that it doesn't matter where you qualify for this race so IMO, there is no difference if you finish towards the front or in the back.
Debi: I just expect to be entertained. I never expect anything of the Duels except fun. I just enjoy them to enjoy racing, not for any outcome or another, honestly. Entertain me is all I ask.
Eric: With the top 35 rule gone, as I understand it, I would expect a hard fought race, as most of the field actually has to race their way in this time. Before the top 35 crap, I always liked the Daytona qualifying process and how different it was. Big races should have special qualifying procedures, and who can argue with having to race their way in? I'm glad to see it's at least somewhat back to the way it used to be.
Aha Eric, so that brings us to a bonus question! What do you think of the new qualifying format? Is it good, bad or indifferent? I posted a link (somewhere) which states that the fastest 36 get in, no matter who they are. Then next 6 are the top in the points by OWNER, and the last is the past champion. IF there is no past champion trying to qualify, there is one more spot for the top in points by owner. Good? Bad?
Eric: I think I already basically answered in an earlier question, but it's an improvement solely because the top 35 rule is gone. Strip out all the stuff about who is locked in after pole qualifying and it's basically how it was when I was a kid: Front row set in pole qualifying, rows 2-16 from the Duels, then a few more on speed, then the provisionals. It's a little convoluted, but a big race should have special qualifying procedures. I've always liked how you can race your way in. In the end, despite all the consternation, only 2 are going to be sent home anyway (one almost certainly Brian Keslowski), so might as well have some fun with it.
Jen: I am glad they changed the format of getting in. I would love if they threw out the rule for the last 7 spots. Make it a race in or you don't race. I think saving those spots for 'owner points", and "past Champions" should be done away with, especially in the case of those teams that are well financed. I could write a whole book on this, I have very strong feelings about it, but, I think you get what I am saying.
Debi: I have never, ever been in favor of the top 35 rule. Never. I am so happy they have gone to this format. I don't think those 7 spots will come into play most races. I think the Champion's provisional will only be used by Terry Labonte for the few races he chooses to race in. The only time the provisional 6 should come into play would be if one of the front runners crashes in qualifying, and I think that's what it is there for - to protect those drivers in the hunt for the Chase who have a major sponsor they need to keep happy.
Well, that's our discussion for this week. In the news, we report that Dale Jr. blew the engine on his car in the first practice today. His crew has replaced the engine and he has gone back out on the track, but he will start at the back for tomorrow's Duel. Mark Martin's car also sustained some damage, and as we publish, they are still working on the car, having made repairs with Bondo. Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards got together in that incident and once again, Mark was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And I'd just like to take a moment to applaud Michael Waltrip and his team. The car you see pictured above is racing in honor of the 26 people who lost their lives in the Newton tragedy. I'll have more on that when we run the Duels tomorrow, but Michael continues to inspire me. He really is a beautiful person, goofy exterior and all.
Join in with us, and let us know what you think. Are we all completely delusional or do our thoughts have some merit? We want to hear what you have to say, too. After all, this is a Round Table discussion.