If you thought the action we saw Saturday night during the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway was a fluke, think again. The changes NASCAR, and engineers around the pits have made to the Gen 6 car this year, continues to provide great door to door racing on the iconic two and a half mile high banked race track. The Budweiser Duels on Thursday evening reinforced the idea that fans should see a great race on Sunday for the Daytona 500.
The COT car, which was designed for safety concerns after the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001, almost ruined the Great American Race before NASCAR addressed the issues. They needed to get back to the basics of providing a race that people could get excited about. Gone are the days of huge packs looking for an accident, and what I called the Love Bug racing we had for the last three years of the COT.
With the changes to the Aero Package, and the new spoiler for the 2014 season, we are seeing the good nose to tail, door to door racing we had been accustomed to seeing in 1990′s. Drivers now have control of their cars, and do not need to ride around in huge packs waiting for the big one to happen.
Like the Sprint Unlimited, the Budweiser Duel races started out with early nose to tail racing around the outside of the track until multiple cars started forming on the bottom of the track. Then the racing started. As more drivers began to trust the inside groove, the racing got better.
The first duel on Thursday night showed us you can have great racing without having a huge pile-up. By the end of the 60-lap affair, cars that were set up correctly filtered to the front, and gave us a three-wide photo finish for the highlight film. Unfortunately, Kevin Harvick, who wanted to win for his new boss, had his car fail the post-race inspection.
The second duel showed as another aspect of the new car. Drivers can lose the draft, form packs, and catch up. This was unheard of during the COT days. When a group of cars lost the lead pack, the only way they could get back in the race was with the aid of a caution flag.
I feel good about the show we are going to see when they drop the Green Flag on Sunday at the Daytona 500, and am certain the success will continue at Talledega. The key to the Gen 6 success will be at the 1.5 mile tracks. With the lion’s share of the season coming at the intermediate tracks, the car will need to perform there as well.
By the time the tour makes it to Martinsville at the end of March, they will have run the gamut of track sizes, and conditions. We should have a good indication of how the car will perform at these different surfaces, sizes, and banking.
I feel like NASCAR needed one season to figure out what they had in the Gen 6 design. Now in 2014, they will have enough data, and be able to adjust the cars which should give us some exciting races.
I’m ready to get the Green Flag dropped on the Daytona 500, and am looking for a stellar 2014 season. If Daytona is any indication of what is to come with the Gen 6 race car, I can’t wait!
You can follow Les on Twitter @Spin_47