Inotebook:/I Spoilers Shrink Again

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR continued to tinker with its rules Friday morning, shaving another quarter-inch off Ford’s rear spoiler and taking a quarter-inch off Dodge’s rear spoiler, too.

The continued adjustments are another move to try to make the cars as even as possible for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Results from the Gatorade Twin 125-mile qualifying races no doubt played a part in the decision, as neither a Ford nor a Dodge led a lap in either race.

“We walked in this morning, and the spoiler fairy cut a quarter-inch off our spoiler,” said Ryan Pemberton, crew chief for Ford’s Dave Blaney. “It’s going to help, but it’s almost a double-edged sword when it starts getting down that far. There might have been other ways to try to level the playing field. A couple days before the 500, it’s not going to happen.”

Three Fords finished in the Top 10 in the first race, but the highest was Ricky Rudd in fourth. There were no Fords in the Top 10 in the second race, with Todd Bodine the highest in 11th.

Dodge had two cars in the Top 10 in the first race and one in the second race. When the Daytona 500 gets the green flag Sunday, there will be two Fords and three Dodges in the Top 20.

“I didn’t really see much difference there,” Ward Burton said of Friday’s practice. “I’m not sure. We got the car a little bit more balanced than we did (Thursday). The track temperature here changes here so quick. I would like to be able to go practice (at about 12:30 p.m.). That would be closer to race conditions.”

The Taurus spoiler, which got a quarter-inch concession in January and another quarter-inch earlier this week, stands at 5 ¾ inches. The Dodge and Chevy spoilers are 6 ¼ inches, while the Pontiac – the oldest model running Winston Cup – is 6 ½ inches.

Neither Ford nor Dodge representatives seemed too pleased with the latest rules break. Asked if a Ford can win Sunday, Ricky Rudd said, “No. If you’re a race fan coming to Daytona, save your money. Go to Rockingham.”

Dodge probably won’t win Sunday, either, said Andy Graves, team manager for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“That quarter of an inch isn’t going to hurt us, but I still have a hard time understanding how two cars with the same templates having half an inch spoiler difference,” Graves said. “They’re not running very good right now, either, so I’m afraid that quarter-inch isn’t going to help us a ton. We probably need more. We probably need another quarter off the blade and about 10 more horsepower.

“I wouldn’t bet on the Dodges on Sunday the way things are right now.”

General Motors NASCAR group manager Doug Duchardt said the GM teams are being penalized for figuring out the new aerodynamic rules package in the offseason.

“When the cars were run on the chassis dyno following (Thursday’s) qualifying races, the results showed that the work put in over the winter by the GM teams paid off with a slight horsepower advantage,” Duchardt said. “At some point, you have to question whether these changes are designed to even mechanical packages or to compensate for the strength of our teams.”

Ford Busch Teams Also Get Concession
Keeping in line with their Winston Cup Series counterparts, Ford Taurus Busch Series drivers weren’t so impressed with NASCAR’s quarter-inch shaving of their spoiler before Saturday’s EAS/GNC Live Well 300. That was especially true with Greg Biffle, who failed to qualify for the Daytona 500 in his first attempt to make a Winston Cup race.

“The quarter-inch on the Cup car wasn’t enough to get the Fords to where they could pull up and stay with the draft,” said Biffle, last year’s Busch Series Rookie of the Year who’ll start 23rd on the grid for Saturday’s race. “The half-inch is what did it. Right now, we’re as far off the Pontiacs and Chevys as the Fords were in the Cup series before Speedweeks.

“The Fords have since received a half-inch reduction and they still weren’t in contention to win the 125s. We need at least a half-inch, but NASCAR seems to only want to give a quarter-inch at a time. We’ll wait and see what the quarter-inch does here and hopefully they’ll consider the other quarter-inch before the race. I know it’s going to need it and I told them that to start with, but we’ll see what happens.”

Jason Keller agrees.

“It’s something, but I don’t know if it’s going to be enough,” said Keller, who’ll start 15th Saturday. “We’ll have to wait and see when we get on the track, but every little bit helps. I just want to be competitive and I know that we’re not right now. We drafted for the first time all year in (Thursday’s) practice session, and we just couldn’t keep pace. We stayed up last night (Thursday) trying to figure out what we can try that might help with this change.”

Yates To Hospital
Robert Yates, the 58-year-old owner of the No. 88 Ford driven by Dale Jarrett and the No. 28 Ford driven by Ricky Rudd, went to Halifax Medical Center early Friday morning after awakening at 5 a.m. with some tightening in his chest.

He went to the hospital under his own power, and upon completing a cardiac catheterization, it was learned that Yates suffered no heart problem. He is, however, being held at the hospital for observation.

Stewart wins IROC Race
Tony Stewart likes going to victory lane at Daytona International Speedway, and he did it again early Friday afternoon when he held off a hard-charging Sam Hornish to win the first round of the International Race of Champions series.

Stewart and Al Unser Jr. battled for the lead throughout the second half of the 20-lap event, but Hornish, the defending IRL champion, pushed Stewart past Unser Jr. with two laps to go and then Stewart kept Hornish at bay to take the victory.

Stewart won last Sunday's Bud Shootout and finished second in his Gatorade 125-mile qualifying race on Thursday.

Scott Sharp finished third, followed by Jack Sprague, Unser Jr., Danny Lasoski, Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Kevin Harvick, Buddy Lazier, Helio Castroneves and Dale Jarrett.

The first lap saw Hornish and Castroneves tangle. Both were given another car to drive, and Hornish made the most of it.

Crash Damages Three Cup Cars
A multi-car crash damaged the cars of Kyle Petty, Dave Marcis and Terry Labonte, but none will have to go to backup cars for Sunday’s race.

“It started way up ahead of us,” Marcis said. “Terry had to get out of the throttle for something that happened in front of him, and Kyle got into Terry. Kyle’s car got a little bit sideways. I was to the outside of him. I drove under Kyle’s left-rear, but when something happens at those speeds, the brakes are pretty useless.

“I had my left foot on the brake pedal, but there’ snot that much grip on the race track. You just can’t miss them.”

Petty’s team was changing engines, and he said the right-rear quarterpanel was “not bad.”

“It tore up the nose more than anything,” Petty said.

Marcis had slight damage on his left-front, while Labonte had sheet-metal damage to the left-rear of his car.

Marcis partially blamed the reduction of spoiler heights for the incident.

“The spoiler they’re taking off a lot of the cars are making the cars lighter on the race track,” Marcis said. “The type of thing you just saw are going to be more prone to happen than they were before.”

Multi-Car Busch Series Accident
Scott Riggs’ first Busch Series race with ppc Racing will have to be run in a backup car, and therefore, he’ll have to start from the rear of the field.

On Friday morning, Riggs was involved in a two-car accident with Chad Chaffin, and extensive right-side damage was done to Riggs’ No. 10 Nesquik Ford.

“I’m not sure what happened,” Riggs said. “The 16 was up high and somebody clipped me from behind. It happened so fast that I’m not even sure what side clipped me first, but one side clipped me and I hit the other car and hit the wall. I just hate it for the guys because we worked so hard on this car for the race. Our backup car was the primary car for this team for the last two years, and we’ll be OK, but I just hate it for the guys.”

Fittipaldi Gets Six-Race Sponsorship
When it rains it pours, at least for Innovative Motorsports team owner George deBidart. Since December, deBidart has able to sign full-time sponsors for his No. 48 Chevy (Stacker 2) with driver Kenny Wallace, and his No. 47 Chevy (Thomas Pacconi Classics) with driver Shane Hmeil.

On Friday at Daytona International Speedway, deBidart announced that he has also acquired a seven-race sponsorship for his No. 30 Chevy from Mike’s Hard Lemonade. CART FedEx Series regular Christian Fittipaldi, who ran one Busch Series race for Innovative Motorsports last fall, will drive six races in the car, while a driver to be named later will pilot the seventh event.

Fittipaldi will participate in Busch Series races at Bristol, Charlotte, Richmond, Kansas City, Phoenix and Homestead. He suffered an accident and finished 39th at Homestead last season.

“Christmas came early, or late depend on how you want to look at it, for us at Innovative Motorsports,” deBidart said. “With Stacker 2 on Kenny’s car, Thomas Pacconi Classics on Shane’s car and now Mike’s Hard Lemonade on Christian’s car, it’s been incredible. We’re trying to build a well-rounded integrated program for sponsors to get involved with our race teams, and we’ve put together a great stable of drivers. Christian just puts the icing on the cake for us there.”

“I’m thankful for George and to all the people at Mike’s for putting this deal together,” the Brazilian Fittipaldi said. “I’m really looking forward to these six races and especially to Bristol. We’ve got a lot of test dates ahead of us, and we’ve got a strong program, so it should be a lot of fun.”

Fittipaldi Full-Time to NASCAR?
Fittipaldi was asked if his six-race schedule in the Busch Series this year was the first step toward a full-time career in NASCAR. He said he’s still a regular open-wheel driver – for the moment.

“That’s a good question,” Fittipaldi said. “In life you have to take things step by step. This is completely different (the Busch deal) than what I’ve done my whole life. I just wanted to see how this would work instead of just listening to people about how it is. It’s a different type of car and it’s difficult to compare both cars.

“There’s going to be a steep learning curve for me, and I’m going to do my best to be around more experienced people that can help me learning all about NASCAR. It’s huge in this country, and I know that. I’ll probably be able to answer that question better by the beginning of next year. There’s a good possibility I’d want to go to Winston Cup later, but for now, I very much enjoy what I’m doing with the CART cars.”

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