Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Preason Thunder Day 2--Toyota's looking stronger

Even as interesting as it is to me to see the top speeds in the single car runs, I tend to agree with Mark Martin that this kind of practice really serves no purpose for the drivers and teams. You really can't tell what a car is going to do during a restricter-plate race until you get the cars running in packs.
So, if you just want to see how fast your car can go, the Tuesday morning session served more of that purpose, with Jimmie Johnson again leading the field, posting a speed of 184.763 mph. Jaques Villeneuve continued to show that he could go faster than he did before, placing the second fastest time. Travis Kvapil moved into third place, up from his ninth place after Monday's sessions, and Casey Mears' speed was fifth fastest Tuesday morning.
There were some tire issues with blistering, and Mears, after posting his fifth position speed, slapped the wall after cutting a tire. Elliott Saddler, Carl Edwards, and Jeff Gordon also reported tire blistering. But the purpose of testing is for the teams to figure out what they can do with the tires and the car, and it is up to the teams to figure out how to fix the tire problems, according to John Darby and just about everyone else connected to Goodyear or NASCAR.
So Tuesday afternoon meant that it was finally time for drafting practice. Now we can taste the real meat of testing.
Much to everybody's surprise or consternation, JJ Yeley finished the day with the top speed at a little over 187 mph, after finishing fifth overall in the single car testing. This continues the good news for Toyota, as fellow Toyota driver Kyle Busch had the third fastest time after drafting practice. Big brother Kurt had the second highest speed in his Penske Racing Dodge, while Joe Nemechek and Matt Kenseth filled out the top five. Johnson, who had led the first three sessions, ended up in ninth after Tuesday's testing, while AJ Allmendinger and Jaques Villeneuve fell completely out of the top ten finishing Tuesday's drafting practice in 21st and 19th place respectively. Still they got the practice in, and will get more practice Wednesday to see if the two newcomers from open wheel are learning anything about the cars. David Reutimann driving the Michael Waltrip Racing #00 stayed in the top ten, posting the seventh fastest speed in drafting practice. Reed Sorensen, Martin Truex, Jr., and Robby Gordon filled out the top ten Tuesday afternoon.
The complete list of cumulative speeds for testing so far can be found at Scenedaily, among other places.
The biggest NASCAR news Tuesday was not from testing, but from the world of the NFL, when Coach Joe Gibbs announced that he was resigning from the Washington Redskins. He is expected to return to his role as Coach and revered leader of the racing team that bears his name.
Wednesday's overview of Daytona Testing will be aired on SpeedTV at 7 PM Eastern Standard Time.

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