Monday, January 24, 2011

Preseason testing opens book on 2011 season

Preseason Thunder has come and passed, but it brought with it an early insight into Speedweeks, another suggestion about changes to the points format and great coverage by SPEED.

While not every team chose to partake in the three-day test at Daytona last week, there were still some trends that showed up. First, the two-car breakaway looks like it will be a factor throughout Speedweeks and for many Daytona races to come, until they change the restrictor-plate package. What does this suggest for February? A lot of really good racing.

With any aerodynamic package previously used at plate tracks that allowed cars to pull away from the pack, it was difficult for the rest of the field to catch up and overtake the leader. That certainly wasn’t the case last year at Talladega, where the cars had a very similar package. This time the field can catch back up, which accounted for the record-setting number of lead changes seen at the Talladega races in 2010.

Expect something similar this year at Daytona, but it could be even better. There might not be a record number of lead changes because the track at Daytona is narrower than Talladega, but that could just make the packs tighter.

This test was a great appetizer to make NASCAR fans’ mouths water for what is to come in the next four weeks.

Also, as expected, NASCAR made a couple of announcements Friday, on the second day of the test. They first confirmed that a driver will only be able to compete for a championship in one series, which eliminates the chance that another Cup regular will dominate the Nationwide Series in 2011. The other, more intriguing talk was about how the points will be tabulated after each race this season.

Lots of scenarios were thrown around early in the offseason, including a 15-car Chase field and an elimination-style playoff. NASCAR hasn’t yet said much about how the Chase will work, but it did hint the old way points were awarded for each race could change, possibly to a base setup where a driver is awarded one point for each position. For example, the winner would receive 43 points and the first start-and-parker would get one point. This excludes how bonus points would be awarded, but this could totally end the similarities between the Winston Cup-style points system and what the sport will now use.

But, is this a good change? The answer to that question will be debated for months and years to come, but it does sound like it could be the least of the possible evils that had been talked about.

Finally, SPEED’s coverage of the test session was excellent. Sure, there weren’t big drafting packs, but this was testing – not practice. However, the commentary from the entire SPEED on-air staff was terrific. They had time to discuss things that fans don’t get to hear during a regular weekend when so much other stuff is happening. Plus, the online streaming was an excellent idea. It’s not something they should do each weekend, but it is a huge step forward for events that previously received very little coverage.

Now it’s on to the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte next week where the final big announcements will be made, and then it’s time for some of the best weeks of the year for NASCAR fans. Two weeks of nothing but racing from Daytona.


  1. To say nothing of the fact that Penske power was up front! Woot! I think BK should run for only NW points....LOL

    The entire discussion of changing the Chase and points again is maddening. We finally got great racing last year -LEAVE IT!

    Didn't see any of the coverage live but SPEED always does a bang up job. Except I really wanted pics of Tony's black eye..LOL

  2. klvalus - Yes, the Dodge cars looked strong, and I love the new decal on the back of the car. As far as the points are concerned, I don't get why people have been so annoyed this offseason. It's like the day after the season finished, it went from how great of a Chase this was and everything to how bad everything is in the sport. What changed?

  3. great wrap-up! i especially loved the online streaming of the driver interviews in the press room. we usually don't get to see much of that unless someone makes an unusual comment.

    as for the points, i am up in the air. i thought last years finish was great (wish JJ still would have lost)but the points system is old fashioned, and due for an update.

  4. storkjrc - Agreed. Maybe that is something they could do each weekend. Just stream the Friday press conferences. I think they have done something like that when it comes to Chase time, but it is interesting to watch.