NASCAR is an odd sport compared to the basic ball-and-stick sports.
Imagine baseball changing the distance from home plate to first base by a few feet a few days into the season. Or the NFL widening the goalposts right before the kickoff for Week 1.
NASCAR’s burden is that it is a sport driven by technology. And so the rules of engagement are an evolving process.
The unveiling of the 2011 season is already a conundrum for NASCAR. The cars are going too fast. The cars are hooking up in pairs, like love bugs on speed. Something must be done.
Adjustments have been made going into Thursday’s Gatorade Duels that set the rest of the field for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon are set to start from the front row in a race that will mark the 10-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death – Dale’s prodigal son and his archrival, leading the charge, as if scripted by a Hollywood producer.
But two-car tandems driving around the tri-oval for three-plus hours could turn the show into a horror reel. Or worse yet, a car might spin and go airborne at speeds approaching 200 mph.
NASCAR is adjusting on the fly. Teams will have to connect air hoses to the radiator and air cooler. Cars won’t be able to stay together for long periods, or engines will overheat. Breaking up the two-car pairs will also slow down speeds.
And there is talk that NASCAR will modify the restrictor plates to reduce speeds even further. That decision could come as early as today.
For a sport that has struggled of late, it’s not a good sign that NASCAR is adjusting its rules of engagement just days before its biggest race of the season.
A bunch of people are complaining — fans, drivers, the media — after only one exhibition race.
“It sucked,” Kyle Busch told a handful of reporters regarding Saturday’s Bud Shootout. “You’re watching four cars, and then you have another two there and another two there. To me, it sucked.”
Busch also noted that 85 percent of the fans on his Twitter page agreed with him.
“We went from playing one type of game to an entire different game,” Denny Hamlin said, comparing Saturday’s setups to traditional restrictor-plate races.
“It’s a little bit of an odd situation, but everybody is in the same boat,” said Doug Yates, head engine builder for Roush Yates Engines.
And changes are coming before the checkered flag drops at Daytona.