DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Mission accomplished.
Sunday’s second day of NASCAR Nationwide Series testing wrapped up more than an hour early, but that doesn’t mean Preseason Thunder wasn’t invaluable to the teams that will race for the first time in the Feb. 22 DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
For one thing, NASCAR allowed the teams to use telemetry, something that will be taboo at Daytona when the series returns for practice during Speedweeks in February. The two-day test gave drivers a chance to get the feel of a smaller rear spoiler, a new cooling package and changes to the rear spring package.
“We talked to the teams, and everybody felt like it would be beneficial to get some time on the race track before they come back to run one of our most important races of the year,” NASCAR Nationwide Series Director Wayne Auton said. “Any time you’re tied in with the Daytona 500 (Feb. 23), you want to put forth your best effort, whether you’re racing Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
“With the changes that we made to the car, we felt like this was a good opportunity for the drivers to get acclimated and it gives the teams a whole lot of data, because they’ve all got data acquisition (telemetry) out there on the cars this week that they definitely couldn’t use whenever they come back for Speedweeks.”
NO SINGLE-CAR QUALIFYING
NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers spent more time in drafting practice than did their NASCAR Sprint Cup Series counterparts during a marathon test session Friday — and with good reason.
Though NASCAR hasn’t finalized the format yet, NNS qualifying will abandon the single-car approach in favor of some sort of group time trials. Accordingly, single-car test runs at Daytona have less relevance to NASCAR Nationwide than to NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, who will qualify for the Daytona 500 one at a time, as usual.
“The only reason you see us out here doing single-car runs is just working on speed things,” Trevor Bayne said during Sunday’s lunch break. “You can see a bigger difference in your car when you’re by yourself versus being in the pack, because there’s just so many other factors when you’re [drafting]…
“Obviously, single-car runs aren’t going to matter much when we come back, because qualifying is going to be a group effort, and, obviously, in the race it’s all about how you do in the draft.”
According to NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton, single-car qualifying will not be used this year for any NASCAR Nationwide or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.
The top two speeds in two days of NNS testing were posted by drivers who have yet to be approved to race in NASCAR competition at Daytona.
Dylan Kwasniewski, 18, was the only driver to exceed 190 mph, hitting 190.022 mph in his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet during drafting practice on Sunday morning. Chase Elliott, also 18, was close behind, running 189.950 mph in his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevy.
James Buescher was third fastest at 189.921 mph in his No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota, followed by Bill Elliott (189.885 mph, testing for JRM) and Brendan Gaughan (189.881 mph in a Richard Childress Racing Chevy).