Preseason Thunder testing with the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car continued on Friday, January 11 at the world center of racing, Daytona International Speedway, in advance of the 55th annual Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, February 24. Day 2 offered a little bit of everything, with the highlight coming in the afternoon as the pack returned to the high banks.
During single-car runs in the morning session, Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton in the No. 31 Chevrolet topped the speed charts with a lap speed of 194.805 mph. Rounding out the top five were teammate Kevin Harvick (193.557), Matt Kenseth (193.121), Paul Menard (192.963) and Greg Biffle (192.719).
“I feel like that the sport is in a good healthy place,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. during a break in the on-track action. “We have a good opportunity to grow. With this car we have a chance to do something great and really make a big impact … I think the racing is as exciting as it has been in a long time. You look at some of these old races and look back at some of the events that we had in the ‘80s and the ‘90s … it always is changing and it always will, but I think we have improved it.”
Friday’s second session opened with a multi-car pack working on drafting around the hallowed 2.5-mile superspeedway. Speeds in the draft reached nearly 200 miles and hour, with 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne leading the speed charts with a lap of 199.650 mph.
"The biggest thing was just how the draft was working more like it used to be,” said Martin Truex Jr. “There were no two-car tandems, it was cool being able to back up off the leader and get runs and take the lead and do things like you used to do. It has a little bit more strategy involved than just holding it wide open and hitting the guy in front of you as hard as you could, so I thought it was cool.”
About an hour into the afternoon test session, a 12-car accident ended several teams’ day. During the drafting session, a multi-car incident on the backstretch sent several cars to the garage. Among the drivers involved in the incident were Marcos Ambrose, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Regan Smith and Kasey Kahne.
Matt Kenseth, the 2012 Daytona 500 champion, has been fast throughout Preseason Thunder with his new ride for 2013 season – the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
After spending his entire career with Roush Fenway Racing, the 40-year-old driver is joining Joe Gibbs Racing and will be teammates with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
He will look to become the first driver to repeat as Daytona 500 champion since Sterling Marlin accomplished that feat in 1994-95.
“Man, if I could predict that I'd be making a bunch of money in Vegas, that's for sure,” Kenseth said. “These are always really unpredictable races. We're going to do everything we can just like you do every year. Show up down here and try to win the race. Like I said, it's always unpredictable. It's the biggest race of the year and there's a lot of effort that goes into these races and certainly plate racing is anything but predictable.
“Hopefully, we'll have cars like we did last year. Last year we had really, really fast cars and Greg (Biffle) and I were able to team up pretty much all four races and stay toward the front for all of those races. So, hopefully I'll have a car that runs like that again and can hang out up front somewhere and have a shot."
With The Sprint Unlimited (February 16 on SPEED, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio) and the Daytona 500 (February 24 on FOX, Motor Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio) a little more than a month away, Greg Biffle is readying himself for what he believes will be a “fun” and “exciting” Speedweeks.
“The cars are stuck less and they are looser,” said Greg Biffle. “That is good for racing. It is good for the fans. It will make it more exciting and make pit strategy come into play. If you put tires on, you will be able to go faster. I think all of that is good. This is going to be a heck of a race. I like that the cars were sliding around and hard to drive. It will make it a fun race.”
Tomorrow concludes 2013 Preseason Thunder for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. A section of the Oldfield Grandstands is open with free access through the lobby of the Daytona International Speedway Ticket and Tours Building.
Tickets for Preseason Thunder Fan Fest are $10 on Saturday and are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. Children 12 and under will receive free admission.
Budweiser Speedweeks At Daytona tickets are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
The West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner will continue it's continuing coverage of all the activity of Daytona Speedweeks, including expanded coverage of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, as well as an interview with Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, and his fellow Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle.
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