Okay, so testing isn't a competition, but it is fun to treat it as such anyway. Every team had its own testing agenda this week, and so we didn't really see every team doing its best to get the fastest times.
Many teams, including the Hendrick teams, went for speed first, and then worked from there for the three day session. What I am excited about is that the Toyota teams went for speed first, and stayed fast for the rest of the session. Not that I'm a Toyota fan, I still like Chevys, but my favorite driver happens to be driving a Toyota this season. Besides, racing has always been more about the drivers for me than about the maufacturers.
But the real story in testing this week has been about the CoT, or the Formula NASCAR car, as I like to call it. Some teams, in getting a handle on the car, have been working with the balast, to try to lower the center of gravity, which, as we can see by the shape of the car, is probably a good idea. Others worked on suspension set ups that would preserve tires, which is a good idea considering the amount of blistering that was reported the first day. Most tested in a combination of areas. Needless to say, the information gathered will be applied to the testing session that will take place next week. So the speeds from these first three days of testing aren't a real preview of the upcoming Daytona 500.
We can, however get some kind of inkling of how racy the Formula N car will be at the 500 from what the drivers have said about the car itself in testing. Jeff Gordon, for instance, told Speed TV's Bob Dilner that he felt they had a handle on the car, and noted that it is easy for the second, third, and forth place cars to pass the car in the front of the pack, something Junior Johnson discovered when he accidently first took advantage of drafting in 1960. JJ Yeley was happy enough with his car that he declared that it would be racy come the 500.
Yeley's positive attitude carried over to other Toyota drivers. A.J. Allmendinger noted the improvement in Toyota over last year in this interview:
Are you happy with how the three-day Daytona test?
“I’m just happy with the whole team’s performance. Everybody back at the Red Bull shop worked so hard to get us prepared to come test down here, and all the guys here that put a lot of effort into these three days. I don’t think anybody has shown their best hand. Everybody is going to come back with a little bit more, but so are we. Toyota has shown us that they stepped up their program. We just need to go back to the shop and not let up at all. We’re pretty good, but we have to get better.”
In the same publication, Kyle Busch's excitement over the program tells us that there are good things coming for Toyota, not only at the Daytona 500, but for the season:
Are you surprised with how fast the Toyotas have been during this three-day test?
“Not, not at all. We knew that the switch was going to be good, and the reason we went to Toyota was for the pure fact that they want to go out there and compete and win races and win championships, so that's what we're here to do with them. The biggest thing was that it was nice to see the Red Bull stuff up there and Bill Davis' stuff going fast. I'm not necessarily sure if it's a lot to do with their engines or just the way that the Camry's front end is shaped or what exactly it is. For what we've got going on with our program and the Gibbs stuff, we're proud of the way we came out of the box strong.”
This, of course, is from the guy who posted the best times for the three day session.
What we can see from here, is that the season will be competitive, that the Toyota teams will be in the mix, and that we are very impatiant for the Daytona Speed Weeks to begin.
The complete list of posted speeds for Wednesday's testing can be found here.