Sat12202014

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Raising the curtain on the 2012 NASCAR season

The last several years have been a bit like “bringing up Brian.”  Ever sine Bill France Jr. turned over the reins of the family business to his son Brian in 2003,  you kind of had the feeling that we had to endure the growing pains of Brian France learning how to run a national sport the size of NASCAR.  In 2011, it finally came together and produced the most exciting and competitive season in  many years.

We still have some of the foolishness created under the Brian France regime, such as the “Lucky Dog Rule” and the “Chase for the Sprint Cup”. But I must admit, this past season’s “Chase “ with

Tony Stewart, who had done nothing to shout about all year long, was something to behold.  Stewart, getting hot and winning five of the ten Chase Races to finish in a tie with Carl Edwards in the points and win the tie breaker for the Championship based on having the most wins made for a great final couple of months as something to behold.

I think it is great that the powers the be at NASCAR are finally backing off the common templates car of tomorrow look for the cars and making them look more like the brands they represent. For the 2013 season the cars will look even more like the brands the dealers sell. Funny, it took the brain trust in Daytona so long to remember that for the past 60 years the sport has been billed as late model “Stock Car Racing” cars with cow catchers on the front and wings on the back.   Ford unveiled a sample of the 2013 model Ford Fusion they will race next year at the pre-season media press tour, sponsored by Charlotte Motor Speedway last week.
For 2012, the cars will finally switch from carburetors to electronic fuel injection.  There hasn’t been anything with a carburetor at the local dealer of your favorite brand for twenty years or more.  About time they have decided to get with the program.  One thing about the old engine set-up was that they were pretty much bullet proof.  We’re sure to see some problems caused by the change to fuel injection for a while.

NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton is leading the charge to do away with the two-car drafts that have become the fast way around Daytona and Talladega the past couple of years.  Speaking of changes in the Daytona Package, Pemberton said, “We’ve made a sizable effort to scale back the amount of tandem drafting we’ve seen at the superspeedways the past few years.  We’re going to Daytona with a larger restrictor plate at 29/32, smaller spoiler,  and softer springs.”

“The radiator inlet has been moved up to the center of  the bumper area and decreased  to 2 and a half by 20 inches. The rear bumper dimensions were moved downward an additional two inches.  The changes we made in the cooling system and aero package will aid in getting back to the more traditional style pack drafting we’ve come to expect at Daytona and Talladega.”  It will be interesting to see how this plays out during the races.

Fully ten of the top drivers will  be working with different crew chiefs this season, including defending champion Tony Stewart, who notified crew chief Darian Grubb that he would not be back for the 2012 season before they began their five race-winning run during last season’s “Chase.” Steve Addington will be Stewart’s crew chief for 2012.

Darian Grubb is moving to Joe Gibbs Racing to take over the crew chief duties for Denny Hamlin’s team.  Speaking of Joe Gibbs Racing, long-time crew chief Greg Zipadelli is leaving JGR to rejoin Tony Stewart as competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing.  Zipadelli will also serve as crew chief for Danica Patrick for the 10 Cup races she is scheduled to run for Stewart-Haas Racing this season.

The Sports Cars set kicked off speedweeks last weekend with the Rolex 24 at Daytona.  Stock Car Racing at Daytona begins Saturday, the 18th, with the ARCA race and the Bud Shootout. The Cup Cars will qualify for the Daytona 500 on Sunday, the 19th.   Thursday, Feb. 23, begins five straight days of racing, starting with the twin Gatoraide 150’s and culminating with the 54th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26th.

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