Surprise! When NASCAR Sprint Cup teams showed up at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday morning following a two-day break, they were handed a smaller restrictor plate for the 2011 Daytona 500 and the rest of Speedweeks.
The new plate is 1/64 smaller than the one used in the first part of the week (including the Bud Shootout), and various reports say it will cut anywhere from eight to 15 horsepower from the engines.
NASCAR apparently didn't like high speeds recorded in the Bud Shootout (a two-car draft with Michael Waltrip and Kyle Busch reached 206 mph) and made several moves Sunday afternoon to break up the two-car drafting – including shrinking the size of the grille opening on the nose and installing a pop-off valve.
But apparently officials wanted to do more to reduce speeds in addition to simply limiting how long drivers could draft in pairs. Thus the move to a smaller restrictor plate today.
Several drivers, such as Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., said shrinking the restrictor plate would only make the two-car drafting easier.
And Jeff Gordon said Wednesday morning that drivers will do whatever they have to in order to win the race – which means drafting in pairs.
The only difference between the Daytona 500 and the Budweiser Shootout will be the length of time they can do it without overheating. Gordon predicted drivers would only be able to draft in pairs for three or four laps at a time before swapping which car is leading and which is pushing.