Har­vick wins un­der cau­tion

Lax rules fail to add spice to Shootout

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY JENNA FRYER

Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMur­ray, the sec­ond-and third-place fin­ish­ers, both raved about how ex­cit­ing it was on the track. And fourth-place fin­isher Kyle Busch com­plained nu­mer­ous times dur­ing the race that many cars were out of con­trol.

Only it didn’t trans­late to the au­di­ence, which had hoped all 75 laps were as ac­tion­packed as the fi­nal two. It’s wish­ful think­ing, but also un­re­al­is­tic. For starters, the eight-car ac­ci­dent in Thurs­day’s first prac­tice put many teams in a bind. Their Shootout cars wrecked, they were forced to pull out the cars that had been des­ig­nated as back­ups for the more im­por­tant Day­tona 500. Now down a car, they couldn’t help but worry about those be­ing wrecked, as well.

With sev­eral prac­tice ses­sions and next week’s qual­i­fy­ing races re­main­ing, driv­ers walked a fine line Satur­day night of try­ing to pre­serve equip­ment and keep their fo­cus on the Feb. 14 main event.

“ We didn’t want to tear this car up, and that was the main fo­cus,” said Ham­lin, who ran a con­ser­va­tive race be­fore his late charge to a top-five fin­ish.

There was also a sense among the driv­ers that the Shootout is a nice, mo­men­tum­build­ing win, but the risk of be­ing too ag­gres­sive far out­weighed the re­ward. That, Gor­don promised, would change in the big race.

“Once we get to the 500, that’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent deal,” he said. “Man, it’s the Day­tona 500 and ev­ery­body is go­ing to be go­ing for it and you’re go­ing to see a lot more risk be­ing taken and for good rea­son: That’s an im­por­tant tro­phy that we all want.

“ You’ll see plenty of action and plenty of bump-draft­ing.”

A third is­sue is the one Kyle Busch com­plained about most of the race: The cars are still too dif­fi­cult to drive. A com­bi­na­tion of the largest re­stric­tor plate since 1989, with slight tweaks to the shocks, curved end plates on the wings, and new fins on the rear win­dow and deck — de­signs to keep cars from go­ing air­borne — seemed to af­fect the cars in a way that made three­and four-wide racing im­pos­si­ble.

Driv­ers rarely tried to make a third line in Satur­day night’s race, and those who did jump into the mid­dle didn’t stay very long. That could be be­cause all the changes to the cars made it too dif­fi­cult for driv­ers to keep the cars un­der con­trol.

“It was out of con­trol — we all just kept it in con­trol,” Kyle Busch said. “ Th­ese cars aren’t that easy to drive, so we’re hav­ing a hard time. It’s just try­ing to get the cars to stay in their own lane. We could be real, real tight and scoot up on peo­ple or we would be real loose with peo­ple tuck­ing un­der­neath us.

“ There’s so lit­tle room for er­ror at this place, and we’re just all over.”

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