You might have noticed that NASCAR the last few years has made it a point to not go to our biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500, with a significant rule change. They don't want to throw teams a curveball, because if they do that, well then it might hurt the racing there.
Obviously we can't sit here today and predict what the outcome is going to be on all these recent rule changes.
I do know that the feeling I am getting from the owners, drivers, teams, us in the media and, more importantly, the fans is that everybody is excited about this season.
Let's take a look at the changes that are coming:
Obviously, the big change everybody is talking about is the switch from a wing to a spoiler later on this year.
I realize we aren't going to see the switch-over from the wing back the spoiler until six or seven races into the 2010 season.
So why wait?
The problem with that is there are lots of things the fans might not understand. I know it looks like it would be pretty simple just to unbolt the wing and bolt on the spoiler, but in reality, it is just not that easy.
First, the whole grid of templates that NASCAR uses to check the cars during inspection would have to change. It's called The Claw and it is lowered down over the car. Not only does NASCAR own a handful of them but the teams own a couple of them as well. So that's a lot of money tied up in templates.
Well, the rear wing brackets are what that grid of templates was based around. So obviously, with no rear wing, that means no rear wing brackets, so NASCAR is going to have to come up with another location to base the grids off of.
In addition to that, they then will have to educate the teams so that everyone across the board is on the same page.
So as you can imagine, there is a lot of logistics to it.
Is making the change back to the spoiler going to be like taking a magic wand and waving it over the car making it instantly better? No.
Is it going to make the No. 48 car go from a championship contender to a midpack car? No.
Is it going to make Robby Gordon go from a midpack car to a championship contender? No.
But we are getting back to what the fans have been used to seeing over the years and that is the spoiler.
The other real benefit is it should make the cars drive more consistent. That will be because the air flow going from the front of the car to that rear spoiler will make the cars more consistent and predictable.
Feel the power
Now as far as the restrictor plate change, it isn't that significant. It is only going to be a 64th of an inch bigger that was run at Daytona in July.
What is the significance of a 64th of an inch? Well that is 12-14 mph in extra horsepower. Also remember that the restrictor plate at Talladega is smaller because the speeds are so much greater than at Daytona. So a smaller plate is used to hold the speeds down.
The cars will be a little faster than they were a year ago in Daytona. The drivers certainly are going to like the throttle response the bigger plate gives them. I will say that these are the biggest holes used in restrictor plate racing in 20 years. You have to go all the way back to the 1989 Daytona 500 to find holes comparable or bigger than the holes they will be using this time.
After the Talladega race, NASCAR put a full-court press into getting the "lift off speed" higher of these cars taking off like an airplane when they got backward. That is something they have been working on hard.
There has always been a strip down the back window that we call the "shark fin." Now through a lot of testing they have done, the fin is not only going to be taller but also going to extend down the decklid and all the way back to the rear wing area. Testing showed that by doing those two things raised the lift off speed seven to eight miles per hour.
No more "Gotcha" moments
NASCAR also made another rule change recently and I like it. This only affects green-flag stops. But let's say you are already committed to coming down pit road and the caution comes out? This new rule will allow you, as long as you stay in the outside lane on pit road while maintaining pit road speed, to drive down pit road and blend back in -- no harm, no foul.
I think this is a very good rule change. The current penalty is going to the tail end of the longest line, so I like what NASCAR has done here.
So its time to get the 2010 season started. I am very excited to be down here in Daytona again. I, along with all of us at NASCAR on FOX and SPEED are committed to bringing you the viewer the best racing ever.