Harvick wins under caution
Lax rules fail to add spice to Shootout
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.”