DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Dale Jarrett's expression, along with the final rundowns of both 125-mile qualifying races Thursday for the Daytona 500, said it all: a quarter inch wasn't nearly enough.
NASCAR told Ford teams it can trim a quarter-inch off its rear spoiler following last Sunday's Budweiser Shootout at the Daytona International Speedway after the car wasn't competitive in either pole qualifying or the all-star race.
Although Chevrolet, Pontiac and Dodge teams were upset with the rule, Ford's problems didn't seem any better during either of the qualifying races Thursday.
Ricky Rudd finished fourth in the first qualifying race and Jarrett was 10th. They were the only Fords in either race to finish in the top 10.
"I was hung down on the bottom and that was the wrong place to be," Jarrett said. "It just doesn't seem like that works well, especially with the Ford. You've really got to keep the momentum going. When the car gets side-by-side with another car, it just kills it."
The quarter-inch reduction was supposed to reduce the amount of drag on the rear of the Ford Taurus. Not only was the larger spoiler like pulling a parachute, it created so much downforce on the rear wheels that it seemed to lift the front wheels in the turns.
So is there a solution?
"I'm not smart enough to know that," Jarrett said. "You'll have to ask the guys who work on these things all the time. We've got a lot of work to do if we're going to have a chance."
With eight Chevrolets and three Pontiacs in the top 12 starting positions for Sunday's Daytona 500, Dodge joined with Ford in sounding complaints to make the rules more equitable.
"The Dodge ain't the car to have with all that spoiler," Sterling Marlin said. "We've got so much drag on our car, it just won't go. They're so disabled now, it's just follow the leader."
The first qualifying race had no lead changes; the second race had no lead changes in the final 44 laps.
Is there a solution?
"Lay the blade (spoiler) back, cut a little bit off of it, give us a bigger (restrictor) plate and let us eat," Marlin said. "I would like to see them run about 195 mph. Lay the spoiler back to about 40 degrees (from 55) and make the cars get loose. You'd have to roll out of the gas and we can pass."
NASCAR said no rule changes were coming after the qualifying races. The sanctioning body, however, said it could amend the rulebook all the way up to the start of Sunday's race.
FRONT ROW JOE: Joe Nemechek makes part-time appearances on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit, but he usually makes a big splash.
He won the pole for Saturday's EAS/GNC Live Well 300 with a fast lap of 186.254 mph.
"It's all about the guys back at the shop," Nemechek said after winning the top-starting spot for the second consecutive year. "You've got three Nemco cars in the top five and that's pretty cool. It's all about motors and aerodynamics."
David Green was second at 185.762 mph, followed by Randy LaJoie in third at 185.552, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth at 185.525 and Jeff Fuller in fifth at 185.510.
Nemechek also owns the cars driven by LaJoie and Fuller.
Earnhardt Jr. is making his first of two scheduled starts on the junior circuit in a Richard Childress-prepared Chevrolet. Childress was the car owner for his father, Dale Earnhardt, and the two decided to use his father's No. 3 car number.
Kerry Earnhardt, the oldest son, qualified in 27th place in a car that's co-owned by Hall of Fame football player Terry Bradshaw.
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