DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It seemed that every time we had a restrictor-plate race last year, the voice of frustrated fans continued to rise.
Now, admittedly, I have come late to the Twitter party, but since joining in last November, fans tweeted me regularly about eliminating two-car tandem racing. Some even said that unless NASCAR did something about it, they were going to watch something else.
That doesn't mean everyone hated it. There are folks equally as vocal who said they liked it. I can't honestly sit here and tell you that I didn't like the two-car tandem racing. You can't ignore that in last year's Daytona 500 we had a record number of lead changes. You also can't overlook Talladega in April of last year, when we also set a record in lead changes and had eight drivers coming to the start/finish line all but tied.
So you will never hear me say the two-car tandem racing was bad. But, simply put, the majority of our fans didn't like it. They wanted to see things go back to the old-school, big-pack racing. So NASCAR and the teams began working hand in hand to try to figure out a package on the cars that would give the fans what they wanted.
The desired goal, which seems to have been reached by the look of the Budweiser Shootout, does come at you like a double-edged sword. Does anyone, drivers and owners in particular, want to see it come at the expense of as many race cars torn up as we saw Saturday night? Naturally, the answer is no, particularly from the owners who have to foot the bills on these cars.
I would be stunned to see NASCAR take any measures before Sunday's Daytona 500 that would take away from the type of racing we saw the other night in the Budweiser Shootout. Might they tweak things a little bit before Sunday? Sure, I can see that happening. But I don't see any kind of sweeping, broad-stroke changes to take away from the return to pack racing we saw the other night.
It was pretty obvious what caused the majority of the wrecks Saturday night in the Budweiser Shootout. You simply cannot push a driver on the left rear of his car. It sends the guy ahead of you spinning. As we saw in practice and in the race, the consequences of that affect a lot of cars, drivers and teams. It would be easy for NASCAR to swoop in and say you can't touch a car in the corners again, as they have done in the past. I hope they don't do that, and I don't think they will.
Thursday brings us the Duel races that will be carried on SPEED. We'll have an even better feel of where everyone is at by going back to this old style of racing. Remember that the Budweiser Shootout was all about winning. There weren't any points involved, and finishing first was all that mattered.
So the mindset of the drivers will change a little bit. Obviously, we are still going to see pack racing, but I think you will see the guys have a better grip on things and will be willing to be a lot more patient. You don't want to wreck your primary Daytona 500 car on Thursday. Combine that with Sunday starting the points chase, and I just think you will see smarter racing in the Daytona 500.