Pre-season Thunder Testing at Daytona yields compelling results

By Casey Sutton 


Casey Sutton is a rookie blogger. His favorite drivers are Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart. His home track is Darlington Raceway. Casey is 19 years old and a full-time student at Clemson University majoring in pre-veterinary medicine while following NASCAR on the side. Casey has been an avid fan just since October 2010 after he went to his first LIVE race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was always a casual fan because of regional influence, but never an avid fan until he went to his first race. Now, he lives and dies by NASCAR, and pretty much plans life around it. Casey’s friends may think he’s crazy, but Casey is proud to call himself a NASCAR fan!



2012 Winter Testing at Daytona International Speedway
(photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. –– This year’s Winter Testing at Daytona could have been described as the most crucial in our sport’s history. In a poll taken by NASCAR and track promoters, an overwhelming majority of fans said they disapproved of the two-car tandem style of drafting currently being used by drivers at the superspeedways. The primary goal of this season’s testing was to reduce the effectiveness of the two-car tandem draft and to appease disillusioned fans.


In a valiant effort to minimize the influence of two-car tandem drafting at the superspeedways, NASCAR officials facilitated a series of tests over the course of three days at Daytona International Speedway. During this three day trial, NASCAR officials worked closely with race teams, car owners, drivers and crew chiefs to hear their concerns associated with the regulations being tested.

Testing consisted of single-car, two-car, and mass-draft test sessions while using a series of changes implemented by NASCAR. These changes included a smaller rear spoiler, a larger restrictor plate, a smaller grill opening moved up to the center of the bumper, lessened radiator capacity, reduced capacity in the radiator overflow can, lowered pressure sensitivity on the radiator pop-off valve, softer rear springs and a ban on driver-to-driver communication. All of these changes were aimed at reducing the amount of time two cars could stay together in a tandem draft.

3-Wide Racing at Daytona Testing
(photo from – Joey Logano Fan Website)
The effects of these changes were apparent by the second and third days of testing. NASCAR officials experimented with the size of the restrictor plate, settling upon 29/32nds of an inch which kept speeds within the desired range of 195 – 200 mph. Officials indicated they were comfortable with these speeds because they implemented a larger “shark fin” to raise speed at which a car can take flight. By the third day of testing, grill openings were so small and pop-off valves so sensitive that many drivers experienced ejection of water from their radiators during even single-car runs.

Officials and race teams alike discovered after three days of testing that there is no practical way of eliminating the two-car tandem draft. After asking drivers to participate in mass-drafting sessions on the second and third days, officials collected data which will be used in determining the rules package for Speedweeks 2012. The prospect of the mass-draft style of racing returning to the superspeedways garnered much fan and media attention. However, no one really knows what type of racing we will see during Speedweeks at Daytona.

NASCAR is trying to do their best to create the most exciting racing possible for the fans to continue a steady path for growth as a sport and industry. But, one thing is certain: NASCAR must make the 2012 Daytona 500 a successful event. The very future of the sport may well depend on it. Let us hope they get it right.


Readers can follow Casey Sutton on twitter @caseysutton93
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