Seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams turned laps at the high banks of Daytona International Speedway Tuesday, seeking the best baseline aerodynamic package for next January's Preseason Thunder Test at "The World Center of Racing."
Teams participating in Tuesday's test included Hendrick Motorsports (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Aric Almirola); Roush Fenway Racing (David Ragan and Marcos Ambrose); Joe Gibbs Racing (Joey Logano); Michael Waltrip Racing (Martin Truex Jr.); and NEMCO Motorsports (Joe Nemechek).
After the track was dried following an early morning rain shower, teams first got on the track at 11:45 a.m. The initial restrictor plate size was 29/32 inch and the initial spoiler size was 4 ½ inches tall, 63 inches wide, which was the same spoiler size for last July's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona. By day's end, the size of the rear spoiler had been reduced to 3 inches tall by 62 inches wide. The smaller spoiler results in less down force and drag, but still allows the cars to maintain high speeds and remain under control.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevy), a 13-time race winner at Daytona, said Tuesday's test session was a "positive step in finding a solution to the drafting style at Daytona."
"I did not anticipate finding a magical solution here today, but we will be much better off and a lot smarter about things by having tested," said Earnhardt. "This is just part of the work that needs to get done. There are a lot of creative minds out here. We're learning what we need to know. I think we're all in agreement that we probably won't totally rid ourselves of the tandem racing, but I'm confident we can get to the point where it will not be the norm."
Martin Truex Jr. (#56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota), a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and solid restrictor plate racer, said there was a lot of mixing and matching going on in the garage this afternoon. "We tried several different packages out there today and what we're trying to do is put an end to this two-car draft, or at least make it so we can only get together for a lap or two and have to switch or run in a pack," said Truex. "NASCAR is being smart about all of this and they are going through some steps to see if the changes that we're making will result in what they think they will be."
John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director, said that Tuesday's test should allow NASCAR the ability to formulate a solid baseline aerodynamic package that teams can work on heading into next January's three-day test session at DIS, Jan. 12-14. "One of our goals is to give the teams more options when it comes to how they draft and we believe we're headed in the right direction on that," said Darby. "We want to be able to reduce the difference in the speeds between the tandem style of racing and more of the pack style of racing and we made a lot of good progress on that here today."
Both Earnhardt and Truex agreed that the transition to Electronic Fuel Injection in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is right on track. The sport's premier series will implement EFI beginning at Daytona next season. "The computer guys like what they've seen so far with the EFI test and I'll tell you what, when I've tested the EFI car, it drives as well or better than the carburetor cars," said Earnhardt. "To be honest with you, if you didn't know it when you got into the car, you couldn't tell a difference," said Truex. "The only thing that's different is the way it starts. You don't have to pump the gas like a normal carburetor. You just flip the switch and crank it up like a street car."(NASCAR)(