The opening weekend at Daytona International Speedway not only brought back the roar of Cup cars but provided a couple of topics to discuss.
Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman, who will be on NASCAR America from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, join Nate Ryan and Dustin Long in answering this week’s Bump & Run questions.
Kyle Petty: I’m not sure there’s much cause for concern. I’ve been going to Daytona a LONG time and have seen lots of spins off Turn 4. I don’t see this as a Hendrick Motorsports problem as much as it’s just a byproduct of the cars and the type of racing we see now at Daytona. It’s hard for teams to find that balance between speed alone and speed in a pack. It’s a razor’s edge they balance on. Sometimes you lose that balance if the car is put in certain situations — no matter who you drive for or who you are.
Parker Kligerman: There is no doubt, that the Hendrick cars are showing incredible single-car speed, which is obvious from their qualifying record here at Daytona and the superspeedway tracks last year. I think that is a testament to the fact that the superspeedway aerodynamic rules have been fairly consistent over the last few years. This has allowed the Hendrick team to continually find ways to take drag out of their cars. But over this same period of time, we have seen the Daytona track surface age, and begin to show small bits of character.
Therefore, I do believe there is a need for worry, as many of the things that you do these days to garner single-car speed are not mechanical and are normally built into the design of the car (Underside chassis and body). Therefore it will be up to them to try to make mechanical grip in the coming practices in an effort to counter the lack of aerodynamic grip they have built into their cars.
The fix to it all though? Be up front. As we heard Dale Earnhardt Jr. talk about during the Clash, if you are upfront in clean air where the car is actually making downforce and has all its sideforce, they drive fine. Hendrick may try to form similar strategies to that of the JGR armada, to keep themselves upfront all day.
Nate Ryan: There certainly was an air of concern Sunday, outside of Chad Knaus’ sanguine assessment. The crew chief for Jimmie Johnson seemed the only member of Hendrick Motorsports who wasn’t worried about the spate of team cars spinning wildly in plate races, but that measured approach to problem-solving is Knaus’ style.
Among Hendrick team members who don’t have the confidence of seven championships, there probably will be some justified scrambling and urgency Monday and Tuesday to address the issues. Is it aerodynamics? Mechanical setup? Track conditions? Regardless, Hendrick should have a better idea Thursday if it’s been solved.
Dustin Long: Even though Chad Knaus expressed no worries when I talked to him Sunday, it was evident his teammates were uptight based on comments from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Alan Gustafson.
The key concern for the organization could be how do they maintain the speed in the car while keeping it stable. Based on what the Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing cars showed on Sunday, the Hendrick cars can’t afford to give up too much speed.
After his contact with Denny Hamlin on the last lap of the Clash, Brad Keselowski said: “I guarantee (Hamlin) knows and everyone else who was watching today that I’m going to make that move again and you better move out or you’ll end up wrecked.’’ Do you agree he has his competitors’ attention?
Kyle Petty: I think Brad has had his competitors’ attention on plate tracks since 2009 Talladega (see Carl Edwards). He’s arguably the best plate driver in racing right now. He understands every aspect of the draft-power-aero combination. He comes each week to the track for one reason, to win. That’s never changed. If his competitors don’t know it by now, they haven’t been paying attention!
Parker Kligerman: To be honest, I don’t think many drivers would do what Denny did had this race been the Daytona 500 or a points race. I think in the mindset that the Clash is a fun race and the only thing that truly matters is winning, it was a last-ditch effort by Denny to block the No. 2 car. The move Brad made to me was just a normal move to the bottom with the momentum he was carrying from being pushed by the No. 22 car.
What has people’s attention is the speed and momentum the 2 and the 22 were able to garner together. I believe in the current superspeedway rules that we have seen the last few years, we are entering an era where it no longer — for most cars — is good enough to have one “partner” drafting with you. In the current rules, it’s becoming apparent you may need three or more cars to gain enough momentum to pass the leader.
Therefore, seeing what the 2 and 22 are able to do being only two cars is definitely being noted by their competitors.
Nate Ryan: Yes, but I also am unsure whether he truly needed it. On the last lap of the Daytona 500 with a massive surge of momentum, wouldn’t any driver make whatever move is necessary to win?
If Keselowski was referring more specifically to using the bottom lane on such a maneuver, then drivers apparently were forewarned Sunday. But short of throwing a block much earlier, I still think any last-lap leader likely would react the same way that Hamlin did.
Dustin Long: He already had their attention based on what he’s done on restrictor-plate tracks with two such wins last year and Team Penske having won five of the last eight plate races.
The comment was more from the Adrenaline flowing after a race. The leader of the Daytona 500 should expect some sort of attack on the last lap. In this case, Denny Hamlin moved down too late.
Watch Parker Kligerman and Kyle Petty on NASCAR America today from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.