It didn’t take long for the NASCAR Sprint Cup boys to start tearing up cars on Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway, nor did it take long for NASCAR to continue to tweak its racing rules.
Six drivers tore up cars in Daytona 500 practice on Wednesday, and they will be forced to go to backups for Thursdays two 150-mile Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races.
During Wednesday’s first session, Clint Bowyer cut a tire in Turn 2, which resulted in him bouncing off the wall and into David Reutimann, with Derrike Cope getting some damage in the process.
The bigger issue came in the day’s final practice, when Mike Bliss lost control of his Toyota in Turn 4, triggering an incident that heavily damaged the cars of Joey Logano and reigning Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson.
All six of the aforementioned drivers will be in backup cars for tomorrow’s Duels, starting from the rear of the field. Cope and Bliss are among the 15 drivers competing for the final four Daytona 500 spots, and having to go to backup cars will not help their chances.
The Blue Oval Boys were impressively speedy on Wednesday, with defending Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth pacing the day’s first practice session with a blistering best lap of 194.254 miles per hour in his No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion. His Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards was fifth in his No. 99 Aflac Fusion. Sandwiched between the Ford Fusions were Kyle Busch in second, followed by Brian Vickers and Jeff Burton.
During the day’s second practice, which was topped by Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Busch, Fusion occupied positions six through 10 on the speed charts, with Kenseth best in class at 192.612 mph, a speed that was identically matched by Kasey Kahne’s No. 9 Budweiser Ford. Then it was Paul Menard (No. 98 Peak/Menards), Greg Biffle (No. 16), Elliott Sadler (No. 19) and Carl Edwards (No. 99).
In the wake of last Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout ending under yellow, NASCAR is instituting a major change in all three of its national touring series. Traditionally, NASCAR has allowed only one attempt at a green-white-checkers finish.
That’s about to go to the wayside. Going forward, NASCAR will allow multiple restart attempts, as long as the caution waves on the penultimate lap. Once the racers take the white flag, however, the field will be frozen if a caution comes out before the end of the race.
“We want to give these guys every opportunity to finish the race under green,” said NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston.
An official with Richard Petty Motorsports confirmed Wednesday that what had been labeled a “merger” between RPM and Yates Racing was, in fact, an acquisition of equipment and facilities by RPM. Yates Racing co-owner Doug Yates does not have an equity stake in RPM.
Instead, Yates partnering with Front Row Motorsports has changed its named to Front Row Motorsports with Yates Racing. The new entity is using the owner points from the old Yates Racing No. 96 and 98 cars on the Nos. 37 and 38 Ford Fusions, respectively.
Jeff Gordon took responsibility for the crash that took out Greg Biffle’s No. 16 3M Ford in last Saturday night’s Bud Shootout. The wreck, which took place on the next-to-the-last lap, occurred when Gordon bump drafted Biffle aggressively down the backstretch and into Turn 3, where the wreck began.
“I promise you one thing: I was giving him one heck of a push and it was sort of one of those pushes where this is either going to get us to the front or it’s going to cause a wreck,” said Gordon. “And it was the latter instead.”