Opinion: Going to Extremes
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 24, 2016 | 8:15 A.M. EST
While at times it may sound like the biggest cliché in the books, it’s the absolute truth; Daytona is it’s own beast and the real season starts Sunday in Atlanta. (Photo: Getty Images)
There’s no reason for any driver to get too high or too low after Speedweeks.
Make no mistake anytime you start the year with a good run in the Daytona 500 it’s time to celebrate. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, a bummer of a week at the beach shouldn’t be cause for concern that the season is a loss.
While at times it may sound like the biggest cliché in the books, it’s the absolute truth; Daytona is it’s own beast and the real season starts Sunday in Atlanta.
Racing at Daytona, especially during the format used during Speedweeks is unlike anything else that happens on the NASCAR calendar. Even though Talladega is also a restrictor-plate track, it races much differently than its sister facility in Daytona.
Daytona has always been much more of a handling racetrack than the 2.66-mile mammoth in Alabama. The current plate rules package along with the way Daytona’s track surface is wearing out, the touchy weather conditions and how wind plays an impact made handling all the more important this past Speedweeks.
The week in Daytona also has a unique qualifying system, qualifying races and an exhibition thrown into the mix as well for the bulk of drivers competing and that all happens before the 500-mile grind that caps off the festivities in “The Great American Race.”
But once the final hauler pulls out of the Daytona infield, the clock really starts on the meat and potatoes of the Sprint Cup Series season.
Intermediate tracks like the one in Atlanta make up the bulk of the schedule and with the new lower aerodynamic downforce rules package in place this year, in many ways it’s a whole new ballgame. Sure there were two races last year featuring this year’s rules that helped shape NASCAR’s decision, but now that there in play every week of the year outside of Daytona and Talladega is a game changer.
Overwhelmingly drivers and for the most part crew chiefs welcome this direction. Now it’s time to see who can excel and without a doubt there will be some who do faster than others who will struggle.
The Joe Gibbs Racing camp will come to Atlanta still riding high after Denny Hamlin’s Daytona 500 win and the team taking three of the top-five spots in the race with satellite team member Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing taking another spot in second place for good measure.
On the flip side organizations like Hendrick Motorsports, who had Kasey Kahne as its highest finishing driver in 13th, or Roush Fenway Racing, which continues its recent struggles at Daytona, would no doubt have liked to get the year off on a better foot.
Atlanta provides an opportunity to come in with if not a clean slate at least one not etched in stone.
The 2016 edition of Speedweeks in Daytona has come and gone. Now it’s time to get down to business.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.