I had a great weekend. It was good watching cars go fast on television again. It didn't quite bring the satisfaction five-hundred miles of beatin' and bangin' brings us, but it was racing and it did bring some thrills, to break what seems like the longest 11 week off-season ever. We should be happy we aren't football fans, because eleven weeks is actually the shortest off season of any professional sport.
The Rolex Grand American Series 24 Hours at Daytona isn't, in reality, a NASCAR event, but most race fans are familiar with the names of some of the drivers, and the sights and sounds are a nice break in the tedium of off season.
There were some records broken. Team Ganassi chalked up an unprecedented third straight victory in the event, with the #01 drivers team of Memo Rojas, Dario Franchitti, Juan Paul Montoya, and Scott Pruett, each an excellent and experienced driver in his own field. Due partly to the weather, partly to mechanical failure, and partly to the advanced level of competition, the attrition rate was high, and the #01 car crossed the finish line two laps ahead of the closest competitor, the #99 team of Jimmie Johnson, Alex Gurney (the son of racing legend Dan Gurney), Jimmy Vasser, and Jon Fogarty. Fogarty and Gurney were the Rolex Series Champions at the end of last year's season.
There were 23 caution flags, and 16 lead changes, both new records.
Daytona testing didn't tell us a whole lot about the new (CoT) Formula N cars. Just that the engines were working good, and maybe working with wedge, trackbar, and alignment adjustments to find that comfort spot for the drivers. Everything else is mandated by NASCAR to be the same for every team at Daytona. But now, at Vegas, there are a few more things the teams can work with. There is much more the Crew Chiefs can do as far as aerodynamics adjustments go than they could do at Daytona. As explained very well by Larry McReynolds on Speed TV, the rear wing and the struts that support it can be adjusted in several ways, in addition to changing the shape of the struts. Plus the front splitter is adjustable, to change the downforce on the front end, as well as the suspension adjustments that couldn't be done at Daytona.
So, once everyone found out how the track and the tires worked, they went to work on set ups and experiments.
Some of the experiments obviously failed, as both Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton had equipment failures in the front suspension and crashed, leaving their teams with only one car for California testing Thursday and Friday. David Regan's crew chief accepted responsibility for a loose condition he set up in his driver's car.
This brings up a point about the new Formula N car that may not have been forseen in the developmental stages. The car was supposed to make racing affordable by all the teams, but it seems that nobody can afford to wreck one.
"The car that Jeff [Burton] crashed is junk -- it'll be easier to replace it than it would be to put it back together," (RCR crew chief Gil) Martin said. "Anyone who thinks these cars will be able to take a beating better than the [standard cars] is kidding themselves.(from NASCAR.com)
"With the [chassis] recertification process and the tolerances we have to meet, it's easier and cheaper to just build a new one than to go to the effort of repairing one."
It also seems that the car that was supposed to allow the teams to use the same car for everything from road courses to the superspeedways does not actually exist. In a NASCAR.com article from California Speedway, Kevin Harvick answered a question pertaining to the multi usefulness of the new Formula N car.
When he was asked during Thursday's lunch break at California Speedway if the chassis that Sprint Cup teams must use this season will enable organizations to use the same cars at different tracks, Kevin Harvick said yes, but only to a point.
"With these cars, you could use the same thing from a track like Bristol [short track] to here at California [intermediate, downforce track]," Harvick said. "We're using the same cars we had at Las Vegas, with minor setup changes.
"As far as the other tracks, we'll always have road-course cars and we'll always have speedway cars [for Daytona and Talladega]. But the interesting thing is, one of the cars we have here is the center section from one of last year's road-course cars, with new front and rear clips."
Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM
But we should remember that a similar situation came in play in the Rolex Grand Am Series in 2003 with the introduction of the Daytona Prototype (DP) car. As pointed out by Charlie Turner, of Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie--in an excellent article, by the way--the DP was suppose to be a safer and less expensive alternative for the teams than the purpose built sports cars that were being used in the series at the time. There were complaints and widespread non-acceptence, but after four years, the DP has made its own history. Perhaps this tells us we need to give the Formula N car a little more time.
So the experiments at Las Vegas testing resulted in the conclusion of "we know we better not do that again"
Once this week of testing is over, there is nothing left to do but begin the exciting, or, at least, much anticipated 2008 season. The Bud Shootout is a little more than a week away, with nothing in between now and then. Unless you want to watch that thing called the Daytona 500 of Professional Football, which I, personally can't get excited about. If they could only make the players about 3000 lbs heavier and 160 mph faster, maybe they could get me to watch.
Well I have rambled on enough now. This was supposed to have been posted by Tuesday at the latest, but it wasn't so I kept adding to it until I got this mess. Thank you all for bearing with me.