Every year at the Daytona 500, drivers contend with high speeds, a hot and slippery track and the aggressive moves of other drivers. But Sunday, they’ll have even more to contend with as new rules could change everything.
Take the Daytona draft as an example. It looks like a train speeding down the tracks with no brakes. Slip out of line, you fall to the back.
But when NASCAR removed a rule restricting how high the bottom of a car must be from the ground, speeds got higher – a 203 lap was run during Friday’s practice – and the draft has now become a high-risk tactic.
On the surface, drivers are taking it in stride.
“I think there’s going to be some give and take there. Do you want to have raw speed or do you want to handle well and try to balance that out and have the best of both worlds,“ said Martin Truex, Jr.
“Once we get into a pack, I’ll be able to make a difference and make the adjustments to the car that I feel to make it the fastest car out there,“ said Danny Hamlin.
Another change will also have a big impact. One less pit crew member will be allowed to work on the car during stops. It’s a safety measure that has added, in some cases, three to four seconds to pit stops. And teams are scrambling to perfect the change.
“Yeah it will change the strategy of our race, in what we do as far as two tires, four tires, gas only,” said Joey Logano. “Those pit calls that we have will change a lot because the pit stops are quite a bit slower.“