After last night’s wild and crazy Budweiser Shootout, NASCAR drivers are applauding the return of “pack racing” to NASCAR's Superspeedway's.
A long time critic of the two-car, draft at Daytona and Talladega in recent years, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., expressed happiness with the new NASCAR rule package that seems to have abolished two-by-two racing.
"I have more of my destiny in my hands in this type of racing,” said Earnhardt last night, despite being swept-up in a late crash that left his Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet crumpled and steaming on the track apron. “I was feeling really good and really happy with the way things were going. I felt like I was doing a good job. I felt like I had control of my race and had potential to win if I made all the right moves.
Earnhardt said he is optimistic about his chances in next Sunday’s Daytona 500, as well, adding, “I know what to expect. I feel like I have got a better chance with this style than I did last year, for damn sure.”
While Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout featured a trio of multi-car crashes, former series champion Matt Kenseth downplayed fears of a crash-filled Daytona 500. With no points on the line last night, Kenseth said he and his fellow drivers felt free to race aggressively and take chances. “I think everyone will be a little more calm (in the Daytona 500),” assured Kenseth. “At least until the end.”
Four-time Sprint Cup Champion Jeff Gordon agreed, saying, "It was wild and I can't say what we saw out there was completely unexpected. There was a lot of aggression and a lot of wild driving out there, which is to be expected on a night like this when we have no points to deal with."
Tony Stewart applauded NASCAR for its off-season work to abolish the two-car draft. "I actually had fun racing at Daytona again, which I haven't had for a while,” he said “I'm really, really appreciative (of) the work that NASCAR has done in the off-season, to try to make it better for us out there. I don't know what the consensus is from everybody else, but I had more fun as a driver tonight than what we've had in the past."
“We still need to keep trying to make it even better,” cautioned Earnhardt. “This is not the end, this is just the beginning of trying to put a great package out here. But it is a great improvement, really good. I’m pretty pleased with what I saw."
He also offered some unsolicited advice on how his fellow drivers might avoid a repeat of Saturday’s Bud Shootout carnage. “You don’t have to move around,” he said. “You just hold your damn car where it needs to be and not drive around like an idiot. If you want to drive your car in a straight line and be sensible, it’s possible.”