Saturday, February 14, 2015

Speedweeks 2015 Preview | Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500 Qualifying

Hey guys!

Daytona Sprint Unlimited (Photo: Examiner.com)
It's time for the NASCAR season to kick off in Daytona!  This off season really flew by for me and I really can't believe it's time for Daytona.  If you are new to the sport the two weeks of activity leading up to the Daytona 500.   As usual there were several rules changes over the off season which I will address in a little bit.


First let's talk about the other series that are running this weekend.  The World Of Outlaws (WOO) Series is also starting their season in Florida.  The series will be at Volusia Speedway from February 10th until February 21st.  Below is the remaining schedule for Volusia Speedway.


As you can see the  World Of Outlaws schedule contains the Sprint Cars, UMP Modifieds, Late Models, and Big-Block Modefieds are all down at Volusia Speedway.  If you are interested in keeping up with the action results will be posted on woosprint.com.  If you want to listen to the live audio of the events you can sign up as a member on dirtvision.com and you can always pay a fee to watch the event on dirtvision.com.

Trust me when I say that the World Of Outlaws are something that you need to experience.  I had the opportunity to see them at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway back in May and they are a show!  My best friend still talks about it to this day.  If you want to see her favorite part, the 4 wide salute, you can see that here.

As for the results from Volusia so far, Austin Dillon won Tuesday night's UMP Modified opener with Nick Hoffman, Ty Dillon (younger brother), Jake Hawkins, and Kenny Wallace filling out the rest of the top 5.  Wednesday night, Kyle Strickler won the UMP Modified race with Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon, Nick Hoffman, and Jackie Boggs rounding out the top 5.  Wednesday night also saw the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series which was won by Greg Hondett with Dani Lasoski, Brad Sweet, Paul McMahan, Kerry Madsen, and Daryn Pittman rounding out the top 5. Thursday saw another UMP Modified race which was won by David Stremme followed by Austin Dillon, Nick Hoffman, Ty Dillon, and Kyle Strickler.  Thursday also held another All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series race won by Daryn Pittman followed by Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet, Greg Hondett, and Kerry Madsen.

The next race will be tonight February 13 with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars as well as the UMP Modifieds.

ARCA Racing Series at Daytona (Photo: racinboys.com)

The next series in Florida this weekend is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.  The series saw its first action on the track this week on Thursday with a practice session from 4 to 6 PM.  The ARCA Racing Series is still allowed to test during the off season so they had action on the track prior to this week.  The series had two days of open testing at the Daytona International  Speedway on the 19th and 20th of December.  In the morning session on the 19th of December, Venturini driver Cody Coughlin had the fastest time of 48.210 seconds.  The afternoon session of the same day saw Patrick Staropoli turn the fastest time of 47.785.  On the second day of testing Sean Corr was fastest in the morning session with a time of 47.743 and in the afternoon session Austin Cindric was fastest with a 47.934.

ARCA also held another open test session on January 16th from 9 AM to 5 PM where Sean Corr once again had a quick time of 47.951 seconds.  That leads us to Thursday's practice session for the ARCA series.  Bobby Gerhart is always fast when it comes to Daytona and Talladega and this week is no exception.  Gerhart was fastest in the first practices session for the Lucas Oil 200 Presented by AutoZone with a time of 47.633 seconds.  It should be noted that ARCA has adopted a new optional engine that essentially a crate motor.  The sanctioning body has teamed up with Ilmor and Holley to produce a cost effective option for teams should they choose to go that route.  In the past this has always been the most expensive part of ARCA racing.  The Ilmor 396 ARCA motor is designed to be durable and have an engine refresh of 1,500 miles.  The reason I mention this new optional motor is that 11 of the top 13 practice speeds were with this new motor including the second fastest speed of 47.657 by Matt Kerzejewski.

This morning's practice session was held at 9:30 AM and saw Patrick Staropoli with a fast speed of 47.386.  And this afternoon at 3:30 PM the group qualifying session was held for the series.  Seven groups of seven cars took to the track for 8 minutes each session.  The individual groups were set based upon practice times.  The fastest time was set by Mark Thompson with a fast time of 47.802 seconds.

The Lucas Oil 200 Presented by AutoZone will be on Fox Sports 1 at 4 PM (EST) tomorrow, Saturday February 14.  The official green flag will drop around 4:15, and I can guarantee it will be an interesting race!

Pit road in the past (Photo: Gazettenet.com)
New cameras to monitor pit road activity
 (Photo: sportingnews.com)
So let's talk about some of the rules changes that are facing the Sprint Cup Series for 2015.   By far the most noticeable rule change that faces the series this season is the use of cameras to officiate pit road.  In the picture above you can see the official (in the white uniform) is over the wall just like the crew members are.  That will be changing this season.  Cameras will be mounted above the press box (where spotters are) and will monitor two pit stalls each.  There will still be officials on pit road, but they will not be going over the wall like they have in years past.  Once a car enters pit road the
camera system will monitor the progress of the car through the different areas of pit road.  The camera system will monitor the pit stop and infractions such as too many men over the wall, and driving through too many stalls on entry or exit.

Each pit stop will also be monitored by a crew of 8 officials that will see how many tires were taken, if fuel was added, and any adjustments to the car such as chassis adjustments or repairs to damage.  This could be closely watched later in the season.  At the end of last season the rear quarter panels on the cars were being pulled out pretty far even on the cars that had no damage.  After all every aerodynamic advantage you can get over your competition will help.  Infractions that are flagged by the system can be overridden by the 8 officials.  These infractions fall into three categories according to NASCAR:

  • Vehicle - pitting outside the box for example
  • Equipment - taking equipment outside the box
  • Personnel - too many men over the wall or over the wall too soon
This new system will be interesting to see in action. 

With the new camera system there isn't a way to police the lug nuts.  It will of course be in the best interest of the teams to have all of them tight, but it could be interesting to see what happens in that department.  Also this season NASCAR has once again decided to ban testing for this season.  Teams will only be allowed to participate in NASCAR and Goodyear tests only.  At road courses this season, Sonoma and Watkins Glen, racing and qualifying in the rain is a possibility for the Sprint Cup Series.  There will be a shorter rear spoiler (8 inches down to 6 inches) and horsepower will be reduced from 850 to 725 by use of tapered spacers.  Roller valve lifters will be used instead of the old flat valve lifters.  There will be lower differential gear ratios.  There will be an optional driver adjustable track bar, and the radiator pan has been reduced from 43 inches to 38 inches.  

I think that is all of the off season changes.  At least I really hope that's all of it! 

Photo: nascar.com

That brings us up to this week at Daytona.  The first time the Sprint Cup cars hit the track was at 5 PM for the first practice session for the Sprint Unlimited.  The field for the Sprint Unlimited contains a minimum of 25 drivers. Those drivers eligible are all 16 of the Chase drivers from last season, all 2014 Coors Pole Winners, past Sprint Unlimited winners, Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full time in 2014, and any remaining spots will be filled by drivers highest in points from 2014 who are not already eligible. 

As I said earlier the first practice for the Sprint Unlimited was held at 5 PM this afternoon and the fastest time was 44.832 seconds put up by Kurt Busch.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 5.   The second practice was held at 6:30 PM and the fastest time was 45.740 put up by Jeff Gordon.  Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.  

There was no qualifying held for the Sprint Unlimited.  All starting positions were determined based on a draw, and all pit stalls were picked using the same method.  Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne will start on the front row tomorrow night.  

There are no points involved in the Sprint Unlimited only bragging rights so the race could be interesting.  The race will be on Fox at 8 PM tomorrow, February 14.  

Sunday we will see a new format to Daytona 500 qualifying as well.  In the past qualifying has always been single car runs at the track; however, this year there will be group qualifying.  From what I understand this qualifying will be like Talladega was last year.  Overall the qualifying session Sunday will be to determine the front row for the 500.  I will update you guys next week before the Budweiser Duels on that situation.  

Qualifying will be at 1:30 on Sunday February 15 on Fox.  

Daytona Beach Racing (photo: floridamemory.com)
In case you guys didn't know Daytona used to be raced on the beaches.  The picture above was from that era.  If you have ever been to the beaches at Daytona you know that the sand is hard packed.  Things are much different today aren't they? 

Expect another update mid week in preparation for the Budweiser Duels.  I will rewind to the Sprint Unlimited and the ARCA race.  Also expect another update after the Duels in preparation for the 500.  
I hope y'all have a great weekend and let me know if you have any questions!  


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