Now that the 2014 calendar year has begun, all eyes in NASCAR are already focusing on Daytona. The season-opening Daytona 500 is still over a month away, but already the season is getting under way this week with the annual Preseason Thunder test session in Daytona.
These days, with all the rules that are put in place for restrictor plate racing, Preseason Thunder almost has a different reason.
With many drivers swapping teams and different personnel in place for the 2014 season, the first test session of the year almost becomes about communication rather than car setup. Richard Petty Motorsports is going through such a transition as Aric Almirola begins his 2014 season with new crew chief, Trent Owens.
Owens was with Turner Motorsports last season in the Nationwide Series as crew chief for Kyle Larson, who has now taken over the No. 42 Chevrolet at Earnhardt-Ganassi. Owens also is taking over for long-time crew chief in NASCAR, and the man on Almirola's pit box for a majority of last year, Todd Parrott, who failed a random drug test from NASCAR late in the season and is still under an indefinite suspension.
"This is a great opportunity to join a Sprint Cup organization and a race team that can win," Owens said in a team release. "The No. 43 team has proven they can race up front. We just need to find a little more consistency to make the Chase. I believe we can put ourselves in contention for a Chase spot in 2014."
The Daytona test is the first time both Almirola and Owens will work together, which makes developing the communication between driver and crew chief even more important. Owens has experience both with veteran drivers and young drivers in Nationwide competition, having held the same spot for drivers like Mark Martin, Reed Sorenson, Dave Blaney and Nelson Piquet Jr.
Now in the Sprint Cup ranks, Owens will have an opportunity to give RPM it's first Chase birth, and possibly giving Almirola his first win in Cup competition.
Preseason Thunder for Sprint Cup will be from January 9-10, with four practice sessions over the two days. Fox Sports 1 will have coverage of both days from 1 p.m-5 p.m. ET.