The Budweiser Shootout practice contained no wrecks, however it contained a lot of drama within itself.
The first practice was led by Hendrick Motorsports with Dale Earnhardt Jr. leading the way, followed by teammates Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. Daytona practice speeds are normally not a big deal, besides the speed, however this hit the news big via the mega crew chief swap that happened at HMS at the end of 2010. Three of the four drivers have new crew chiefs for the new year as team owner Rick Hendrick did a driver rotation among the shops. Earnhardt Jr. is working with Gordon's old crew chief Steve LeTarte, while Gordon gets Martin's old crew chief Alan Gustafson and Martin gets Lance McGrew, who worked with Earnhardt. The only one kepe their partner is Jimmie Johnson, who stays with Chad Knaus.
While Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. led practice one, they just used practice two to try out some things with their two car trandrum. Instead at the top of the charts was Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, who hit 203mph. It is expected that NASCAR will shrink the restrictor plate size as they'd like to keep the speeds under 200.
Though according to Earnhardt, even 200mph feels slow.
"I wish we were going 220," he said. "That would be awesome!"
One of the things that also was learned with the practice was the two-car partnership is still bigger than a bigger pack. Expect the rules of Daytona's sister track Talladega Superspeedway to come into play.
"I don't think the way the race is going to play out its going to be any different," Harvick said. "I think with the two-car draft deal and how you can push each other all the way around you're going to see a lot of breakaways. You can't do a lot of things driving wells so its all about timing."
As Earnhardt Jr. says, this gives him an advantage with the number of teammates he has.
"Atleast we've got three other drivers who we can work with as this is a method where two cars need to work together to go fast," he said.
With the speeds and new pavement equaling lots of grip, there's no question that Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout will be dramatic. Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne already tested the lines as they made a testy move with their two car trandum, pulling through a hole that they shouldn't had make it through.
As practice neared its end, the lights went out on the backstretch while Busch, Logano, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon were drafting down the stretch.
"It's like a haunted mansion roller coaster where everything's good until the lights go out," Bobby Labonte said.
Logano joked that they should tape flashlights to the front of the car if NASCAR can't fix the problem. Could Logano be leading us to the future when it does happen? Who knows but NASCAR did fix the problem and practice concluded at it's proper time.
The Budweiser Shootout is a non-points race that happens every year at Daytona to start off the NASCAR portion of Daytona Speedweeks. Past Daytona winners, past champions, chase drivers and raybestos rookie of the year drivers are all eligible, equaling 24 cars in this year's field. The race will be on FOX at 8pm EST on Saturday February 12th.
Practice 1 Speeds: http://www.nascar.com/races/cup/2011/100/data/practice1_speeds.html
Practice 2 Speeds: http://www.nascar.com/races/cup/2011/100/data/practice2_speeds.html
To see more articles by Ashley McCubbin and live updates from the weekend, check out http://newsfromthepits.blogspot.com/