Monday, January 14, 2008

Daytona Session II Day One

Tony Stewart has made it clear to his fans and the media that testing is his least favorite part of racing in NASCAR. If he is going to be in a race car, he wants to be in it to race. In his autobiography, True Speed, he relates a story of how he got in trouble while tire testing in an Indy car for AJ Foyt. He was told to take a lap at a certain speed. But the car was so fast, that he wanted to see how it felt to go faster. He beat the speed he was supposed to be going by nearly six miles per hour.
When he got back to the pits AJ Foyt laid into him, telling him that if he couldn't do what he was told, he would get another driver.
In recent years, Smoke has been able to forego winter testing at Daytona, opting out with the excuse that he would be racing at the Chili Bowl Midget World Series in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an annual event that takes place during the same dates as Daytona testing. Mike McGlaughlin, and more recently, Mike Bliss. have been taking on the mundane duties of test driving the 20 car in his stead.
With the Formula N car being the only car NASCAR will be fielding this year, testing has been extended and additional three days, so the teams could do what they need to do with the unfamiliar car. Tony could compete in the Chili Bowl this year, but there would be time for him to test at Daytona as well.
So, Monday he was at the venerated track, taking the #20 Toyota for laps in single car runs, gathering data for Crew Chief Greg Zippadelli, and the JGR and Toyota engineers.
Smoke seemed less than enthusiastic after the second testing session, even though he had posted the sixth fastest overall speed for the day. He pretty much echoed Mark Martin's thoughts on single car testing, saying that you can't really tell anything from single car runs, and you won't learn anything about the car until you get into drafting practice.
"You don't know what the other teams are doing," he added, "They may be holding their cards close to their chest."
Indeed, it looked as though that was what was going on with the RCR teams who posted way down on the speed chart. Nonetheless, Kevin Harvick seems very positive in regards to what is going on in the Childress garage.

Q. Do you feel like today's test session was sort of the first step in getting you there to repeat the victory?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I liked the fact that our main goal today was to be the first ones on the racetrack, and we accomplished that. We came down here with kind of a specific plan to – engine wise with components that they ran, that they started with last week just to kind of get a handle on our whole company's, I guess, grasp of what car is the fastest and what car is not fast. So we're trying to sort that out between the six or eight cars that we have.

So we kind of came down here not with a speed plan, I guess you would say. It's just more of just kind of going through the plan of which cars, just deciding which car is which, and after we get through with that, we're still not done. We'll have changed two or three different engines and just going through those motions.

So we haven't really gotten to our cars. Clinton coming last week was great because right out of the box the car drives good, and there's a definite difference between the two cars. We kind of came down with a little bit different plan than normal but we accomplished our goal and that was to be the first ones on the track, so mission accomplished for the day

Toyota is now very upbeat, and I love the quote from this article on
Ty Norris, president and general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing, darted into the media center at Daytona International Speedway Monday afternoon and smiled as he referred to the speed sheet from the day's opening practice session.

"Look," he said, "it's just like last year -- only upside down."

Norris made a good point. After Monday's morning session, Toyotas ruled the top of the chart. Led by MWR's Dale Jarrett, the manufacturer's cars posted eight of the top 10 lap times.

The other top ten lap times were posted by Ganassi's Dario Franchitti in a Dodge, and, of course Dale Earnhardt, Jr in the #88 HMS Chevy.
Tuesday's half-hour overview on SpeedTV will be at 6:30 PM EST. For a complete listing of Monday's speeds, go here

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