Daytona’s annual preseason testing has always been a time for teams to shake down their equipment in preparation for the Daytona 500. The 2012 version of preseason testing that just ended last weekend again served that purpose, but it appears that NASCAR might have gotten more use out of the results than the individual teams.
The sanctioning body has been trying for the past couple of seasons to try and break up the twocar drafting tandems that have dominated the sport anytime the schedule stops at either Daytona or Talladega. Every stop at either of the two tracks last season found a different set of rules waiting for the teams as NASCAR continued to work on breaking up the drafting tandems, but each race was still dominated by pairs of cars working together.
Teams in this sport adapt very quickly to whatever rules that are handed down, and last year they even changed the way the spotters and drivers worked with each other. Spotters had to learn how to work with two drivers instead of one as the driver doing the pushing in the tandem was basically blind and had to trust the lead driver to navigate them around the track.
Drivers also found out that it was to their benefit to be able to talk to different drivers on the racetrack during a race, especially those that they wanted as a drafting partner. Radios were limited on how many different drivers could be programmed in, so drivers started finding drafting partners during practice long before the green flag ever waved to start the race.
NASCAR has already announced that in-car communicating between drivers during a race would no longer be legal, but it knew that alone would not be enough to get the cars racing in packs once again. During the testing, NASCAR concentrated on three areas of the car to try and not only keep the speeds safe, but also move the field back to the desired form of pack racing.
The sanctioning body changed the rules after each of the first two days of testing on Thursday and Friday. As you would expect, the first area that NASCAR changed was the size of the restrictor plate. This dictates how much air can get to the engine that in turn controls the amount of horsepower that each power plant can produce. After the Thursday test, the size of the plate was actually increased by 1/32nd of an inch to 15/16th and the change helped produce a lap chart topping speed by Kurt Busch at 206.058 miles per hour with a top speed of 210.9 mph down the backstretch.
NASCAR came back before Saturday’s test and once again changed the size of the restrictor plate by reducing it back to 29/32nd of an inch. That move was made to once again lower the on-track speeds, but it was a couple of other changes that should break up the tandem racing.
The size of the radiator opening in the front of the cars was reduced before Saturday’s test. It went from an opening of 3.5 by 18 inches to 2 by 20 inches. That may not sound like much, but it cuts 23 square inches off of an already narrow opening down to just 40 square inches.
Also changed was the pressure relief valve on the radiator. On Thursday, the valve was set for 30 psi before being dropped to 25 psi for Friday’s test. Saturday saw a further reduction in the psi of the valve as it was dropped down to 21 psi.
The changes in the radiator opening and the pressure relief valve were made to make the cars overheat easier when they ran in tandems. The car doing the pushing in these tandem gets very little air to its radiator and with these changes, it should force that car to have to pull out from behind the front car.
NASCAR will now take all of the data that it collected over the three-day period and begin finalizing the rules that will be used when the cars return to Daytona next month for the season opening Daytona 500. Rules should be sent to the individual teams within a couple of weeks to give them time to make the necessary changes. Hopefully, these changes will be enough to return the racing back to the exciting large packs that have been missed.
Handle what? Example: Terrence Jones goes for a loose ball against Tennessee is grabbed around the waist from behind by Jeronne Maymon. Jones reached for the ball Maymon and flung himself to the floor. Jones is whistled for a foul and Maymon smirks. Jones grimaced, was incredulous, but turned and headed the other way.
In an instant, Jones learned a lesson and taught one to Johnny Jumpshot watching on television — life isn’t always fair, but you man up, handle it and play on.
Ky Sports Person ’11 My candidates are … • Scott Davenport, Bellarmine.
Coached the basketball Knights to 33-2 and the school’s first ever NCAA Division II championship and was named NABC coach of the year.
• Kelly Wells, coached Pikeville College to the NAIA national championship and was named national coach of the year.
• Kenneth Faried, most popular basketball player in Kentucky last season while making hoops a passion again at Morehead State. All American Faried led the Eagles to the NCAA and a school treasure, beating Louisville.
• Josh Harrellson. Best Cinderella story of the year. No more than a holdover from Billy Gillispie’s forgettable time at Kentucky, Harrellson became the linchpin in Kentucky’s drive to a Final Four. Afterwards, Jorts earned his college degree and a six-figure contract with the New York Knicks.
• Phillip Haywood at Belfry became the state’s winningest high school football coach and immediately deflected praise to community, coach colleagues, players and his faith.
And the winner is …
Dr. Eli Capilouto. University of Kentucky president ran up the flag of reform immediately. His board of trustees voted to move control of athletics spending into hands of a committee chosen by the board and president. Next, Capilouto made campus and buildings improvements a priority.
Appropriately, when Capilouto visited Kentucky lawmakers to glad-hand over future funding legislation, the person at his side was not Dr. Mary Lynne Capilouto, nor chairman of the trustees Britt Brockman, nor director of athletics Mitch Barnhart. It was ball coach John Calipari endorsing his president, splashing good will, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
At Mt. Sterling, Bob Butler, three-time letterman for Blanton Collier at Kentucky in the early 1960s, said the other day, “11- 26-2011 was a super day (for me). One I will long remember. Susan and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary and Kentucky defeated Tennessee for the first time in football in 27 years.”
And, Butler reminded us, Collier’s Kentucky teams were 5-2-1 against Tennessee. “Those were the good old days.”
And so it goes