NASCAR: The Multiple Personalities of the New Daytona

Camille Jones@annaxcamilleContributor IIIFebruary 13, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 12:  Cars race during the NASCAR Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Bringing back the rich history of the sport through Saturday night racing, the Budweiser Shootout wasn't the only on track action of the evening set on the newly paved Daytona International Speedway.

Late Saturday afternoon, ARCA's annual Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 on the Daytona track took place. While Bobby Gerhart claimed the victory, the race itself came poised with single file runs and very little front-to-rear end touching between cars.

This would claim to be very different than what fans would see later in the evening during NASCAR's Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout featuring 24 of the series' drivers, including former Daytona 500 winners, Budweiser Shootout winners, Chase competitors of the 2010 season and former Rookies of the Year.

In this race, cars would line up nose to tail, in two-car packs, to push past the rest of the field in pairs also known as "dancing partners." 

There are multiple reasons as to why the races are structured so differently.

Unlike the Sprint Cup cars, the bumpers of the ARCA cars do not match up perfectly, leaving room for error in a two car draft. The air captured between the two cars would eventually lift the front car off the ground and cause it to either slide apart from the car behind it, or completely spin out, if not become airborne.

While the previous pavement of Daytona grew to contain many bumps, dips and a rough surface, it was used a large group-drafting track. Now, it holds characteristics many drivers relate to those of Talladega, the only other restrictor plate track on the NASCAR schedule. 

Drivers in the ARCA series range from 18-year-olds finally setting foot on a super-speedway setting to veterans of both their series or NASCAR. The cars have a smaller amount of horsepower, and are shaped more closely to the look of the former NASCAR Nationwide Series car.

NASCAR has been awaiting the Shootout, as it would be the first race after many practices and tests on the new pavement. It was claimed a success by many, and after the race, drivers including those who were wrecked out in early laps commented as to how fun and exciting the racing was.

It was new and fresh, something NASCAR has been pulling at for a while now.

In just one night, NASCAR and ARCA showed the different ways the new pavement can contribute to a stock-car race. By next weekend, two other series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will have also raced on the new surface.

Will the two other models drive in these wild two-car drafts, or create the line formation and passing similar to what was seen in tonight's ARCA race? 

Daytona's new surface has brought interest from all angles, and with so many different possibilities for the upcoming races next weekend, fans may be in store for what might just be the most exciting and anticipated season-opening weekend in the history of NASCAR.