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Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2005

New spoiler rules may spoil California race

New rules that go into effect for this Sunday at the California Speedway were supposed to make the race cars more sporty. Drivers now believe otherwise.

Smaller spoilers and softer tires were supposed to put more of the car's success in the hands of the drivers. What they learned during a month of testing, however, is the cars are a handful to drive.

"I think it's going to make the racing a lot tougher," said Elliott Sadler, who won at California last September. "With the spoiler cut out of them, I don't think you're going to see as much side-by-side racing. I think the drivers are going to have to give each other a little bit more room until we get used to driving this type of package. I think you're going to see a kind of touchy-feely race at California and at (Las) Vegas until we get some of this stuff figured out."

Michael McSwain, Ricky Rudd's crew chief, said the lack of downforce on the rear wheels will make the cars more difficult to drive. At the same time, it should make each pass interesting.."

Lepage on roll with high Daytona finish

Kevin Lepage didn't have the money to send his car to the wind tunnel during the off-season, and it showed when he posted slow speeds during a pre-season session at Daytona.

He then came to the Daytona 500 knowing he had to race his way into the main event during one of the 150-mile qualifying races.

Lepage beat the odds by finishing third in the qualifier. A ninth-place finish in the 500, however, made him the best feel-good story at Daytona.

Lepage won $307,138. That's enough money to allow his team to race this Sunday at the California Speedway.

Daytona 500 ties TV ratings record

Last Sunday's Daytona 500 tied a stock-car record for the biggest television audience.

The race drew a 10.9 national rating with a 23 share, according to Nielsen Media Research. That tied the 2002 Daytona 500 for the most-watched NASCAR race of all time.

The highest national rating of 13.5 came at 6 p.m. as the race ended. That's one reason why the race is likely to move to a 5 p.m. starting time next year.

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