|Saturday night’s wild and unpredictable Budweiser Shootout and what its competitive 75 laps might mean for the future of Daytona Speedweeks were popular topics on The Day After Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
In the garage area, there was widespread speculation Sunday morning as drivers and teams tried to absorb Saturday night’s wackiness that NASCAR will make some sort of rule or procedural change no later than Wednesday in another attempt to change the face and pace of racing on DIS’ repaved course.
Drafting speeds soared over 206 miles per hour during the Shootout, a frantic race won at the last instant by Kurt Busch. And the nature of the race was unlike any other event in the speedway’s 53-year history. Virtually everybody who was anybody hooked up in two-car breakaway drafts during the race and circled the track over and over in that configuration.
NASCAR does not object to the two-car drafts, but officials would prefer that cars not stay hooked up in that fashion for extended runs. A possible change under the hood, in theory, would adjust a pressure release valve to impact water cooling. The second car in two-car drafts risks high temperatures by staying too close on the front-car bumper for long periods.
Although many drivers said they had great fun driving in Saturday night’s race, some didn’t like the entertainment package that resulted.
Kyle Busch, who was crashed out of the race in a too-tight drafting combination with Mark Martin, said the Shootout racing “sucked. I knew what was going to happen. I called it. I knew Denny [Hamlin] was going to dump the 39 [Ryan Newman] off turn four and those guys [winner Kurt Busch and drafting partner Jamie McMurray] would go to the outside. It was predictable.
“It was like you’re watching four cars race off turn four and that’s what you’re going to see at the finish. It’s not like you’re watching 30 cars in a pack for the last two laps.”
Hamlin reached the finish line first Saturday night but was blackflagged by NASCAR for passing Newman below the yellow line and dropped to 12th position. On Sunday, Hamlin seemed to be still startled by Saturday night’s racing display.
“This is a whole different form of racing,” he said. “We’re gone from one type of game to an entirely different one. We’re learning every time on the track. It’s a completely different type of racing. Everyone’s learning every time on the track. It’s a weird, weird game.
“Guys like Tony [Stewart] and those guys who really got good at Daytona and in restrictor plate racing – Jeff Gordon, all those guys, they’re at no advantage over me or Joey [Logano] or anyone. It’s more of a level playing field. It’s who’s going to learn the fastest. It’s about learning quick.”
Hamlin said NASCAR should eliminate the yellow-line rule on the last lap of races and let drivers race “anywhere” for the victory.
Drivers say high speed is not really a problem. Many say they feel no real difference between 185 mph and 205.
“The only way you can tell is by sound,” Kyle Busch said. “You can hear the motor screaming. You look down and say, ‘Wow, I’m going now.’ ”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including “NASCAR: The Definitive History of America’s Sport” and “Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told”. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.