NASCAR cuts Ford and Dodge spoilers
Saturday, February 16, 2002
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ford and Dodge received more help from NASCAR two days before the Daytona 500.
For the third time since January -- and second time in five days -- the teams were allowed to trim their rear spoilers a quarter of an inch after Chevrolet and Pontiac dominated Thursday's 125-mile qualifying races.
Cutting the height of the spoiler, which sits atop the rear deck of the car, allows cars to go through the air with less drag, thereby increasing speed.
"It's a very simple change for the teams to make," said John Darby, NASCAR's new Winston Cup director. "It's just a matter of having a couple of practices where the teams can readjust their cars if they need to."
No Ford or Dodge led during any lap of the twin races Thursday, won by Jeff Gordon and Michael Waltrip in Chevrolets. Rudd, fourth in the opener, was the Ford with the top finish. Sterling Marlin, who finished sixth, was the top Dodge.
In the second race, John Andretti finished eighth in a Dodge, and Todd Bodine finished 11th in a Ford.
"If you look at both races, there was a lot of moving around and a lot of passing," Darby said. "But it seemed, pretty predominantly, that all that was happening between the Chevrolet and Pontiac. The Fords and Dodges were passing each other, too, except they were way back there in the back."
Ford and Dodge teams have complained since the track opened last Friday that they have an aerodynamic disadvantage. General Motors teams have dominated Speedweeks, winning the pole with rookie Jimmie Johnson's Chevrolet and winning the Budweiser Shootout with Tony Stewart's Pontiac.
As expected, those camps were unhappy with another rule adjustment.
"It's going to take them two weeks to get it done, but they're going to make sure a General Motors car doesn't win this race," complained Chevrolet owner Andy Petree, who has drivers Bobby Hamilton and Mike Wallace in the field.
The change was in place for an hour practice session Friday, where Kevin Harvick turned the fastest lap in a Chevrolet.
"We don't believe that the changes are warranted," said Doug Duchardt, NASCAR group manager for GM Racing. "There is no question that the Chevrolet and Pontiac teams, in general, have had a successful Speedweeks thus far, but they have not had it handed to them. They've earned it."
Jeff Burton's victory at Daytona in July 2000 was Ford's last in a restrictor-plate race, and a Chevrolet driver has won the past five. The horsepower-sapping plates are used only at Daytona and Talladega.
"Do I think a Ford is going to win Sunday? No," said Frankie Stoddard, Burton's crew chief. "We're just not going fast enough. A quarter-inch of help in the draft is just not a huge gain."
Rudd was a little more emphatic.
"If you're a race fan, save your money," he said.
The timing of the change also caused some hard feelings, coming a day after the 43-car field was set.
"It's too little, too late," said Dodge team owner Bill Davis, who put driver Ward Burton in the field but had Hut Stricklin fail to qualify. "We're still way behind. I'm not making excuses. We didn't bring one car down here fast enough to make the race. Shame on us.
"It just doesn't look like we can do it Sunday. We can't make progress up through the field."
Bodine was one of five drivers who didn't participate in the practice under the new rules. He said his crew had too much work to do to improve his car.
"Taking away the spoiler has taken away downforce, so the Fords are a lot looser," Bodine said. "It's a handful to drive. What they should have done, instead of cutting the spoilers again, is add something to the Chevrolets and Pontiacs."
Ford now has a rear spoiler of 5 3/4 inches, Dodge and Chevrolet 6 1/4 inches, and Pontiac 6 1/2 inches.
The Dodges of Stricklin, Jimmy Spencer and Buckshot Jones were among 10 cars not making the Daytona 500.
"It came too late for three or four of the Dodges," said Tony Glover, team manager for Chip Ganassi Racing, which fielded Spencer's car. "It didn't seem like the Fords had what they needed. They look like they're a little better than we are right now, but we'll see Sunday for sure."
Only two Fords were among the top 20 in time trials last weekend. Burton was fifth-fastest in a Dodge, and Dale Jarrett had the top Ford at 13th.