DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The three-day Preseason Thunder testing sessions in preparation for the 54th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Feb. 26 concluded on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
For the past three days, drivers have been turning laps on the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval as well as participating in the Fan Fest activities such as autograph sessions, fan forums and chat sessions through the Speedway’s social media channels.
On track, fans witnessed drivers taking single-car runs, two-car runs and big-pack drafting sessions as NASCAR experimented with different types of rules packages in advance of Speedweeks 2012.
“I think so far we’ve had a good test and gaining a lot of information,” said Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton on Saturday afternoon in the Infield Media Center. “As everybody knows, we’ve been shrinking plates, growing plates and working on different parts of the cooling system and the goal was to see what our limits were. As you’ve seen over the three days, got big on a plate, now we think we’re honed in on where we need to come back and start Speedweeks.
“All in all, I think comments from the drivers have been pretty positive, the way the cars run in the draft, the way they can draft and do draft and what they do to get their cars running to their maximum potential.”
“If I had to guess right now and they lined us up to race, I’d say that you’d see a pack for most of the day,” said Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin when asked if there would be pack racing in February. “You’re going to see breakaways here and there but I think that for the most part the pack can run fast enough to keep up with the two-car tandem.
“The two-car tandem will get out there a little bit but I think that if you get a big enough pack with 20 or 30 cars they will eat up a tandem pretty quick.”
Fastest of the day, test: Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon turned the fastest speeds in the Saturday morning session, both posting turning identical laps of 201.545 mph. Rounding out the top five were Phoenix Racing’s Kurt Busch (199.464), Mark Martin (199.459) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (199.406).
In the afternoon session, Gordon was fastest again with a lap of 200.562 mph. Rounding out the top five in the afternoon were AJ Allmendinger (200.548), Brad Keselowski (200.548), Kahne (200.481) and Denny Hamlin (199.973).
Fastest overall for the three-day test was Busch with a lap of 206.058 mph turned in the second day.
Next up: The 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona is scheduled for Jan. 26-29 as America’s most prestigious race celebrates its golden anniversary. Tickets are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.