As we look forward to the Duel 150 mile qualifying races on Thursday afternoon, I have to wonder how well crew chiefs, and race teams are sleeping. I suspect, they’re either not sleeping at all, or if they do get a few winks in now and then, are having nightmares. With the quirky qualifying procedure at Daytona International Speedway requiring drivers race for positions in the Great American Race, it puts an already low supply of race cars, and parts in further jeopardy.
Teams must get through the Duel 150’s with little or no damage. Fortunately, the Saturday night lineup was laced with mostly top tier teams that have the resources to have some parts available, but still, even they will not be able to withstand a big crash on Thursday that cost more sheet-metal parts. With the Gen 6 Car, parts are no longer made in-house, but rather come from the manufacturers, ie..General Motors, Ford, and Toyota.
The parts are not really stock, so they are not readily available from the factory in bunches, and if they break too many getting to the 500, some teams may find themselves in trouble. The Sprint Unlimited tore up at least seven cars that have been stripped of usable pieces, and are already on their way to North Carolina. I’m guessing the lower tier teams, as well as the start and parks have very few pieces in the haulers, and readily available for duty.
If you noticed, Terry Labonte ran a few laps on Saturday night in the #32 Ford Fusion, and quickly got to the safety of pit road before the mishap that collected half of the Hendricks and Gibbs cars. I’m sure Texas Terry’s exit was a planned procedure to save parts for the remainder of speed weeks.
Keep in mind, teams must have haulers full of cars, and parts on the road to Phoenix for the Subway FreshFit 500 the following weekend. It would have been prudent for NASCAR to put an extra week between Daytona, and Phoenix, but that would have created logistic problems for everyone else. The chassis’ for the 1.5 mile tracks is probably different from the plate chassis’ but I’m sure there are parts that are interchangeable. Especially the sheet-metal pieces.
With Danica Patrick wining the pole for the Daytona 500, I propose there is another problem the teams are cognizant of. Although this is probably the best thing that could happen to boost NASCAR ratings for the next week, short of maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr. getting the pole, it presents another logistic problem. We now have a driver with very little Sprint Cup experience beginning both the first Duel 150, and the 500 in front of a field loaded with seasoned drivers.
Do the teams that need to race their way into the big show hang back for a while to make sure either Danica is able to run out front, or eases her way to the back, and out of harms way, or do they throw caution to the wind to get well inside of the transfer position, and pray there is no wreck. Teams lucky enough to be in the second duel, will not have to deal with that problem until Sunday.
What ever the case, I’m sure the logistic problems will not disappear soon. It will continue to be an issue until there is sufficient time for teams to get enough parts on their shelves so they can feel comfortable enough to put the petal to the metal, and do some serious racing. Until that problem gets solved, we will probably see drivers in the Cup series drive with some caution, so they don’t create a bigger logistic nightmare than already exists, and let crew chiefs and teams get some sleep with out the nightmares.
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