Guy on NC State forum works for Stewart-Haas as a crew member and gives long updates after races sometimes. This is what he had this morning, thought you guys would like the read:
Wow! What a crazy night, but I guess that is what you can expect with restrictor plate racing in its current form. I sure am glad we have two of the best drafters in the business in our cars. Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled with the win and top 5 for Ryan, but I have absolutely grown to despise Daytona and Talladega. You can't overstate how much time and money goes into those cars to watch them just get destroyed. They have literally months of time in them, especially Daytona 500 cars.
The repave and rules package have absolutely killed Daytona. I loved Daytona, especially before they "fixed" it. It was the roughest, toughest track on the circuit and it ate tires. The place would knock a driver's fillings out which put a premium on handling. Talladega was totally different, but at the beach you had to make the car handle and take care of the tires. When they came off, it looked like someone had gouged them with a knife. Now it is so smooth that anyone could drive it and you would run the same set of tires the whole race if you could. Literally the only reason to change them is fear of a blowout like Hornish had, but that is a whole different story.
The worst part of those tracks from a competitors view though, is that you can't do anything to make your car better. You go there and test for two days and you are measuring gains in hundredths of a second. They already had us in a box setup wise. You literally cant change anything from the firewall back except trackbar height. But atleast you could work with your bumpstops and front springs and shocks to get the car to handle. Now there are no gains there. All I can do as an engineer is not run it out of gas. There is no setup magic and no strategy, although I guess it does put a premium on pitstops.
Then you look at the two-car draft. In that scenario you could work on your cooling system and you could optimize a car to lead or push. It wasn't perfect, but it put some control in the hands of the drivers and teams. NASCAR put the kabash on that by relocating and restricting the grill size and putting this pressure relief valve in play. So basically once we figured out how to keep the cars cool enough to run together they made another in a long line of rules based on "how it looks" and immediately invalidate months and hundreds of thousands of dollars in R&D work. What you are left with is what we have now. You literally spend all night trying to manage your engine temp and keep water in the thing for the push at the end. You can't run close enough together to make the high line work and the track isn't rough enough and tires actually gain speed to where there is nothing to knock you off the low line. You are literally stuck in place. If that is what restrictor plate racing has been reduced to then they may as well turn these two tracks into fishing ponds.
As for the drivers, I don't think they are being given enough credit. They hate this more than the fans. These guys have literally dedicated their entire lives to racing since they were little kids. There are a few sabre-tooths out there collecting a paycheck, but the overwhelming majority are out there fighting for every inch they can get. The good ones know at this track, though, that you can't win if you don't finish and you can no longer make a charge from the back. So they are stuck in line and they pretty much can only get out if they need to cool the engine down. Kurt Busch illustrated the consequences of getting too aggressive early and it didn't hurt just him.
I think Hamlin was right. Thank goodness we are getting back to the tracks where the drivers and the teams can control their own destiny for the most part. I can guarantee they will be racing all out at Loudon. That isn't to say that you will see 100 lead changes. Loudon is tough. But you can do a lot with the setup and the driver's style is very influential. Throw a little fuel mileage into the mix and you have a lot of variables at your disposal. Indy will be a snooze fest purely because the tire is exceptionally horrible, but I am looking forward to going to Atlanta. That will be the best race of the year. A phenomenal track with a great tire combination. It is too bad we raced on Tuesday last year because that was the best race of the season.