Will Daytona 500 be a crashing bore?
I have good news and bad news today.
The image of cars in a showroom
I have good news and bad news today.
First, the good news.
General Motors announced this weekend that the pace car for Sunday’s Daytona 500 will be the 2010 Camaro SS muscle car that is scheduled to go into production next month at the GM plant in Oshawa.
Said Daytona president Robin Braig: “Chevy has been a great partner of the Daytona 500 for more than 30 years and the Camaro is an automotive icon. This 2010 model will set the tone for a 21st century sports car and that’s a perfect fit to lead the pack at the ‘Great American Race.'”
This is really good news for two reasons:
1) General Motors is not leaving Canada, as had been feared in recent days, and by promoting this particular model, which will be built exclusively in Oshawa, it is promoting employment in this country. Bravo.
2) I really was afraid the pace car might turn out to be the Chevrolet Volt, the electric car GM is also bringing online, also in ’10. Electric cars are great for cities and suburbs, not so great for speedways and the wide-open Trans-Canada.
Okay, so now the bad news.
If the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night is any indication, Sunday’s Daytona 500 (and just about the rest of the NASCAR season) is going to be one great big crash-fest.
They went 75 laps at Daytona Saturday night and the yellow came on seven times because of pileups. That’s roughly a yellow every 10 laps.
They started 28 cars and 14 of them – half the field – were taken to the garage area on the hook.
Kevin Harvick won the race, which was in overtime because there was a pileup two laps from the finish (they eventually raced for 78 laps, in actual fact) by sneaking past Jamie McMurray and into the lead just as the last crash happened.
Some people might get a great charge out of this, but not me.
In fact, I find it boring because, frankly, once you’ve seen one NASCAR wreck you’ve pretty much seen ’em all.
The other ominous bit of information from Saturday night’s race was that the tires seemed to “go off” after seven or eight laps of hard racing.
Didn’t we go through all this a year ago? They had tire problems at Atlanta (remember Tony Stewart’s rant about Goodyear after that race?) And then Indianapolis was an embarrassment because they actually had to throw the yellow flag every 10 laps so the racers could pit for fresh tires.
So what’s with this “the tires are going off after seven or eight laps” business?
Larry McReynolds blamed everything on the aeronautical engineers.
On last night’s Speed News telecast, McReynolds said it was because the engineers had dialed in so much downforce that the cars were “bouncing around” during the race (which resulted in them crashing into each other frequently and the poor drivers didn’t really have much control over them) and the tires weren’t able to take it.
Give me a break.
Goodyear, after all the embarrassment it managed to survive last year, should have enough tires in Daytona with enough different compounds to be able to handle any situation. If the teams didn’t listen last year when it came to “safe tire pressures,” what makes anybody think they’re going to listen this year?
On the other hand, as NASCAR rules just about everything with an iron fist, how about legislating the amount of allowable downforce? So much, and no more. You have more, you’ll be penalized.
That might just solve the handling and the tire problem.
Bits & Bites
Arguably the greatest Canadian international road racing star of his generation, Ron Fellows of Mississauga, is continuing with Corvette Racing again this season but only as an ambassador. He has stepped aside as the third driver (with Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen) in lengthy endurance races like the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Petit Le Mans and been replaced by Spanish driver Antonia Garcia. . . .
I know that the Old Spice brand of toiletries embraces powders and deodorants and cologne and other nice-smelling stuff but, frankly, when anybody says “Old Spice,” it means one thing and one thing only: after-shave lotion. So how come they have thrown serious sponsorship support behind a driver who rarely shaves – Tony Stewart? . . .
It is apparently true that Milka Duno has approached Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing about accepting her millions of Venezuelan oil sponsorship dollars in return for letting her drive one of the most famous team cars in all of Indy car racing. As my friend John Bassett wrote, Paul Newman must be turning over in his grave. . . .
One of these years, the ARCA-RE/MAX Series is going to have a fatality on its hands if it keeps insisting on racing at the Daytona Speedway.
The ARCA series is a short-track outfit. They race mostly at places like the 5/8-mile Cayuga Speedway. Many of the drivers are weekend warriors, They get going fast, but not that fast.
There is a huge difference between racing at places like Cayuga, for instance, and Daytona. Closing speeds are different. Way different. At Cayuga, if the yellow comes on, you might be going 125 mph and if you have to stop, you can. Fairly quickly, in fact.
But at Daytona, if the yellow comes on, you might be going 185 and if you have to stop — well, by the time you think about it, it’s too late to stop because you’re already there.
Several times they had big wrecks in their race on Saturday and every time some guy who was half a lap behind would go barreling into the mess, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he should have hit the binders when the yellow came on.
The worst example (and I just happened to turn on the TV to watch the final moments of the race when this happened) was when a driver named Patrick Sheltra had crashed and was sideways on the track, completely stopped.
Suddenly, four or five or six seconds later, he was hit by a car going full speed driven by Larry Hollenbeck. Both cars were dee-stroyed.
They both wound up in the hospital but it was a miracle – a miracle – that no one was killed.
Norris McDonald writes about motorsport each Monday on Wheels.ca and Saturday in Wheels.
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