By Bob Bolles
When I first heard about the UNOH Battle at the Beach races being planned for the backstretch at Daytona Int. Speedway, I immediately went to Google Earth to see if there was enough room to really create a race track in that area. I found that there was less than 150 feet of width from the outside to the inside wall. That would make the turns very tight.
To get the length, the track had to make fairly long straights, so I envisioned two dragstrips with a tight turn-around at each end. This was not a very good scenario and would require a somewhat different setup in many areas of the car.
All in all, I think once the racers got used to the track, their instincts took over and most adapted well. I can truly say that these were indeed exciting races for what they were and the fans who came out got their money's worth.
The finishes were not the prettiest I've ever seen and a few of the winners should have been disqualified for the way they accomplished their last lap passes, especially in the Late Model race where the leader was hit, loosened up and then driven through in order for the second place car to get the win.
I would have thrown the checkered and black flag at the same time on the “winning” car. That's just my opinion. I'm not thrilled with that kind of enthusiasm. NASCAR should have taken the high road and made a quick determination that would have saved the crowd all of that booing. That being said, all of the races were more than I would have expected with lots of passing and racing throughout the field in all of the races.
Should they do it again? I'm not sure. As for the track and the exposure they get, yes. As for NASCAR putting on a short track race during Speedweeks, maybe it should be moved to New Smyrna Speedway that is now a NASCAR sanctioned track, so that the teams already running there do not have to make the move north to DIS.
By Pete Epple
I didn't really know what to expect when I heard NASCAR was making a short track on the back straight at Daytona. The thought of Late Models and Modifieds on such a grand stage (the most elite drivers, TV coverage, big fields) was extremely exciting. When I found out that Circle Track was going to field a car, the excitement level went through the roof.
I started reading as much about the track and rules (or lack there of) as soon the decision to build a car was made. We had to follow the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model rules, and a small addendum (about 20 rule changes) was released for crate engines, carburetors, spoiler heights, and more. This and the on-the-fly rules changes during tech inspection were my biggest gripes with the event. Rules were not made readily available to non-NASCAR regulars and we had to ask a lot of simple questions for what was allowed or disallowed. Some parts on cars were considered “not legal” and they had to add weight before being allowed on track.
I'm not completely bashing the NASCAR officials. Bringing different types of cars together for one race is difficult enough. Figuring out how to tech them so everyone is equal is near impossible. But NASCAR seemed to make it work.
In the end, the action on track was as exciting as I expected. Beside the large amount of cautions, there was passing, rubbing, bumping, and a finish that would certainly have people talking. It was exciting, yet disappointing at the same time. The cars up front ran a clean hard race. That's not to say people weren't getting pushed around, but Kyle Larson's blatant dump of C.E. Falk coming to the stripe was not the way the first ever short track race at Daytona International Speedway should have been won. Larson should have been given the black flag and put to the back of the lead lap car for the finishing order. Especially considering the race was live on television. In my opinion, NASCAR screwed up.
All in all, it was a great way to kick off the racing season. Short track racing got some of the recognition it deserved, and a lot of Saturday night racers can now say they've raced at Daytona. If NASCAR decided to have this race again, I hope they learn from this year and give racers a more clear set of rules well before the race. I also hope they do the right thing in the event of another “exciting” finish like we had this year.