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).
But since the first day of testing, drivers wanted to try drafting in a larger pack at Daytona International Speedway with the Gen 6 car, instead of in two-car tandums.
And they got their wish, but not without trouble.
But of course… everyone knows the saying…”It’s Daytona”, and it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. It always happens – you know… “The Big One” – that is. Friday’s second session opened with a multi-car pack working on drafting around the 2.5-mile superspeedway. About an hour into the afternoon test 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. The official count was that 12 cars out of the 18 on track were involved in some way or another.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
“We were just out there running around, said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “I felt like Marcus (Ambrose) was backing up to me in (turns) one and two to get a run down the back. I was just going to give him a push down the back straightaway and see if he could get the lead. I was trying to eventually get the lead myself. We got off the back straightaway and were just kind of pushing him along there and our cars sort of just didn’t match up very well. I got him hooked into the fence. I pushed Martin (Truex) a little bit in his Toyota and they matched up good. The bumpers were good, didn’t have any problem with any of the cars. That is the first time I pushed a Ford. The roll bar of the front of my car is just at the right place where his car sets right up on top of that. I sort of had him going down the back straightaway like a forklift. It was a big mess and tore up a lot of cars down here trying to work on their stuff. Definitely the drafting is not like it used to be. You can’t really tandem certain cars; certain cars don’t match up well. Our bumpers on the Chevy’s have a little bit of a point. It makes it a little bit of a challenge to get into guys and kind of help them. We definitely weren’t doing that in the corner at all because it was pretty hairy trying to do it on the straightaways.”
Jeff Gordon was asked if he was surprised that the wreck had happened:
“I’m not surprised at all. We see it every year, maybe not quite this big, but you get down here in packs. It’s important to be in those packs and learn what you can learn, especially with a new car. I think you can kind of weigh into both sides of it. You know when the cars are starting to push and move around a lot more that the chances are getting higher that something is going to happen. There are some rookies out there as well. I saw some things happen a couple of laps before that. You just ride it out and hope you can make it through it. Unfortunately, we didn’t in this case.”
Some teams had packed up and called it a weekend late afternoon on Friday and headed back to their shops with damaged cars. Out of 35 teams, 21 remained to test Saturday afternoon.
AFTERNOON TESTING SESSIONS
In the afternoon session, which included drafting sessions, speeds reached 199 mph with 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne leading the speed charts with a lap of 199.650 mph.
With The Sprint Unlimited (Feb. 16 on SPEED, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio) and the Daytona 500 (Feb. 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.”
During Day 2′s media availability, NASCAR’s 10-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about his anticipation for the upcoming 2013 season.
“I feel like that the sport is in a good healthy place,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. “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.”
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.
Preseason Thunder will conclude today.