While you are taking a breather from the non-stop Danica coverage, consider this: this year’s Sprint Unlimited had 17 less lead changes than last year’s Bud Shootout. Granted the 2012 Shootout was seven laps longer, but it also wasn’t broken up into segments which kept the field together. Combine the number of lead changes with the fact that after gaining the lead during the first round of pit stops, Harvick was never far from the front, and we could possibly be seeing the re-emergence of the need for track position at Daytona.
Here is another stat from the Unlimited to consider: Harvick led 40 of the 75 total laps, while no driver led more than 17 laps in the ’12 Shootout (and no more than 10 consecutively).
In the last several years, the need for track position at the restrictor plate tracks had all but disappeared. A driver could go from the back to the front so quickly that teams didn’t worry about where they started or how much time they lost during yellow flag pit stops. We even saw some drivers pit second time by so as to avoid a congested pit road. But the Unlimited may have shown us that the Gen 6 car is changing the game.
Especially late in the race on Sunday, don’t be surprised to see teams try some strategy moves to get their drivers near the lead. I believe it is highly likely that with a few laps to go only those very near the top five will have a legit shot at the Harley Earl trophy.