Things about Daytona 500

Daytona Beach, Fla. As the temperatures climbed this week at Daytona International Speedway and the NASCAR Sprint Cup rulebook was altered almost daily, the hottest word around the garage prior to the Daytona 500 was cooling. In the new Daytona era of two-car packs, keeping the engine of the trailing ‘pusher’ car properly cooled will be critical to the outcome.
As a result of the daily rule changes, it was like old times in the Cup garage between practices. Innovative solutions built by hand were being crafted and installed to the noses of cars in the space behind the air inlets and in front of the radiators. After NASCAR shrunk the inlet openings by 50 percent after the Budweiser Shootout, trying to improve the efficiency of the cooling was the goal of all teams.
“NASCAR makes a rule and then we figure out how to get around it” – said Howard Comstock of Dodge Motorsports Engineering.
“Teams will keep coming up with new cooling iterations right up until the race” – said Steve Hallam, the competition director for Michael Waltrip Racing, one of the Toyota teams.

Things about Daytona 500
Daytona 500.

The Great American Race – the Daytona 500 – is set to take place on Sunday with NASCAR’s best drivers duking it out over 500 miles at Daytona International Speedway. From Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne, the field is full of star-power, gathered together to kick the 2011 season off right.
Drivers start their engine early on Sunday morning and on the third lap. Fans in attendance will participate in a tribute to Dale Earnhardt to mark the 10-year anniversary of his passing at Daytona.
Here’s all the information for Sunday’s race.
Time – Coverage begins at 9 a.m. local time, live from Daytona International Speedway.
What To Watch For – As with any major speedway race, everyone is on the lookout for the big one. Most of the drivers will spend the race bunched together tightly in a wolfpack on steroids, with side-by-side and three-wide racing the norm at Daytona. One minor slip and it all goes downhill fast.
Dale Earnhardt Tribute – To mark the 10th anniversary of Earnhardt’s passing, NASCAR officials are asking fans to stand in silence during the third lap of the Daytona 500. Fans will hold up three fingers are cars fly by during the third lap, with the broadcast crew sitting silent during the tribute. It should be a touching tribute for a racing legend.
It’s About The Draft – After last weekend’s Bud Shootout, it became clear changes were afoot in NASCAR. Drivers paired-off, two-by-two, to draft, forgoing the typical drafting lines prevalent at restrictor-plate races. The two-car draft allowed drivers to easily break the 200 mile per hour barrier, but wasn’t as pleasant on the eyes for many. In response, NASCAR made some changes this week to force cars to stay away from the two-car drafts for most of Sunday’s race, making it easier for the cars to overheat. Expect cars to pair-off down the stretch, though, as everyone looks to make their move late in the race.

Here’s who to watch this year:
1. Kevin Harvick. The 2007 Daytona 500 winner and two-time Budweiser Shootout champion, Harvick won two of the four plate races last year and finished second and fourth in the other two.
2. Tony Stewart. On Saturday, Stewart won his fourth consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series February race at Daytona and he figures to be tough today, too.
3. Kurt Busch. With victories in the Budweiser Shootout and his Gatorade Duel, Busch suddenly vaulted from the ranks of contender to one of the favorites.
4. Jamie Mcmurray. The affable McMurray is always a threat to win any restrictor-plate race he’s in. And his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet has been fast.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. If he hadn’t crashed his primary car in Daytona 500 practice, Earnhardt Jr. would be the favorite. As it is, he’ll have to start the race from the back of the field in a back-up car.
6. Jeff Gordon. The pairing of Gordon and new crew chief Alan Gustafson seems to be a good one, with the four-time champion showing strength during Speedweeks. Gordon will start today’s race from the outside of Row 1.
7. Carl Edwards. Many pundits believe the Ford FR9 engine has superior cooling ability, which could be a huge advantage over 500 miles today. And Edwards has been the best of the Ford racers so far.
8. Clint Bowyer. All four of the Richard Childress Racing cars have been stout during Speedweeks. Bowyer has finished second in both his Gatorade Duel and Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
9. Jeff Burton. Already, Burton was earned his first Speedweeks victory, winning his Gatorade Duel. There’s no reason to expect he won’t be up front again today.
10. Michael Waltrip. The semi-retired Waltrip might finally have exorcized the demons haunting him ever since Earnhardt’s death with Friday night’s emotional NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. Another win today would be indescribable.

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