News & Media


Remaining teams glean final impressions

January 12, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

NASCAR officials pleased with speed, likely won't make changes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The information highway wasn’t quite as crowded Saturday as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a three-day test session at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for next month’s 55th annual Daytona 500.

Preseason Thunder was the first true test for the new Generation-6 car with the new restrictor-plate rules package. For the first time, teams got to see how their cars performed on a plate track while running alone as well as in packs.

Both experiences brought mixed results. With solo runs the order of the day Saturday, Greg Biffle (Roush Fenway Racing Ford), topped the speed chart in the afternoon session with a lap of 194.936 mph. That paled in comparison to Friday’s 199.650 mph run from Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers Racing Ford), which came during that day’s first drafting session.

A 12-car pileup Friday afternoon sent roughly one-third of the teams home. Twenty-one remained Saturday, and several of those departed after a morning’s worth of work.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick Motorsports), Juan Pablo Montoya (Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) and Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas Racing) also eclipsed the 194-mph mark Saturday.

Steve Letarte, crew chief for Earnhardt Jr., and the No. 88 team spent the weekend methodically working through a long checklist, oblivious to everything except for their own results.

What was gleaned?

“Hard to say,” Letarte said. “There are so many unknowns in the field. You don’t know what configuration everyone is running. Parts are still kind of tricking in … there are a lot of different items that could affect the speed, so we’re just ignoring the speed chart when it comes to other cars and we’re just going through our list, trying to find what we need when we come back in February.”

Letarte said there were still items unchecked on the team’s list even after three full days on the track.

“Oh no, we never get through our list,” he said. “We make sure we have more ideas and directions than we could ever work through.

“That way, when you see fruit in one area you can explore it. You never get through everything you want to try.”

In addition to the new body styles of Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, the focus has been on sorting through a rules package that included changes in spoiler size and angle, front grille size and the setting for the radiator relief valve. Only the restrictor-plate size (29/32nds) was the same as 2012.

“I think everyone likes the challenge this car is giving them,” said SPEED analyst Larry McReynolds, a two-time Daytona 500 winner as crew chief. “I won’t say crew chiefs the last two years here ever since the repave haven’t had to work hard. I would never say that. But it’s not been much of a challenge. The track has had so much grip, the cars were so good, you just sent it out there … and hoped that all the stars lined up.”

Handling is much more important now, McReynolds said, “because these cars … they’re not down in the race track. They’ve got 500 pounds less downforce than last year’s Daytona car.

“These guys are going to have to work on making these cars drive good.”

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, said officials were pleased with what they saw, including drafting speeds that approached 200 mph.

“We’re in the ballpark,” he said. “We know the teams will go back and they’ll work, and they’ll bring a little bit better ‘this’ and better ‘that’ (back). We feel comfortable with that. … We’re right in the ballpark and we don’t foresee any changes.”

There were no incidents on the track Saturday.

The next test for the new car is scheduled for  Jan. 17-18 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Preseason Thunder -- Practice 6 results
Saturday, Jan. 12
Pos
Car
Driver Team
Time
Speed
Lap #
# Laps
-Fastest
-Next
1
16
Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing Ford
46.169
194.936
23
23
---.---
---.---
2
20
Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
46.221
194.717
23
23
-0.052
-0.052
3
18
Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
46.254
194.578
5
36
-0.085
-0.033
4
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
46.295
194.405
57
57
-0.126
-0.041
5
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
46.354
194.158
30
33
-0.185
-0.059
6
39
Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
46.372
194.083
8
20
-0.203
-0.018
7
99
Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Racing Ford
46.458
193.723
24
24
-0.289
-0.086
8
14
Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
46.528
193.432
11
11
-0.359
-0.070
9
10
Danica Patrick Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
46.529
193.428
5
11
-0.360
-0.001
10
48
Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
46.617
193.063
15
15
-0.448
-0.088
11
21
Trevor Bayne Wood Bros Racing Ford
46.629
193.013
5
5
-0.460
-0.012
12
13
Casey Mears Germain Racing Ford
46.826
192.201
11
11
-0.657
-0.197
13
17
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford
46.828
192.193
5
8
-0.659
-0.002
14
38
Josh Wise Front Row Motorsports Ford
47.295
190.295
24
27
-1.126
-0.467
15
83
T. Kvapil / D. Reutimann BK Racing Toyota
48.198
186.730
14
34
-2.029
-0.903

NASCAR Preseason Thunder -- Practice 5 results
Saturday, Jan. 12
Pos
Car
Driver Team
Time
Speed
Lap #
# Laps
-Fastest
-Next
1
20
Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
46.377
194.062
27
27
---.---
---.---
2
21
Trevor Bayne Wood Bros Racing Ford
46.467
193.686
14
14
-0.090
-0.090
3
10
Danica Patrick Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
46.476
193.648
5
23
-0.099
-0.009
4
27
Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
46.519
193.469
2
21
-0.142
-0.043
5
14
Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
46.587
193.187
21
21
-0.210
-0.068
6
33
Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
46.613
193.079
23
23
-0.236
-0.026
7
31
Jeff Burton Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
46.673
192.831
7
21
-0.296
-0.060
8
16
Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing Ford
46.696
192.736
24
24
-0.319
-0.023
9
18
Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
46.699
192.724
5
14
-0.322
-0.003
10
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
46.717
192.649
17
23
-0.340
-0.018
11
39
Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
46.717
192.649
2
8
-0.340
-0.000
12
78
Kurt Busch Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
46.740
192.555
19
19
-0.363
-0.023
13
29
Kevin Harvick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
46.868
192.029
23
23
-0.491
-0.128
14
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
46.880
191.980
23
24
-0.503
-0.012
15
48
Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
46.917
191.828
23
24
-0.540
-0.037
16
17
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford
46.976
191.587
18
18
-0.599
-0.059
17
99
Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Racing Ford
46.978
191.579
6
18
-0.601
-0.002
18
38
Josh Wise Front Row Motorsports Ford
47.265
190.416
20
20
-0.888
-0.287
19
13
Casey Mears Germain Racing Ford
47.307
190.247
27
27
-0.930
-0.042
20
47
Bobby Labonte JTG Racing Toyota
47.670
188.798
30
30
-1.293
-0.363
21
83
T. Kvapil / D. Reutimann BK Racing Toyota
48.283
186.401
20
23
-1.906
-0.613