DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., – The three-day Preseason Thunder test session for the 55th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race concluded on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
Teams and drivers have spent the past three days shaking down the “Gen 6” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.
The new race car has greater brand identity for the manufacturers and will make its debut in The Sprint Unlimited, the star-studded non-points event on Saturday night, Feb. 16 that will feature the previous season’s pole winners and past champions of The Sprint Unlimited.
Budweiser Speedweeks will conclude on Sunday, Feb. 24 with “The Great American Race,” NASCAR’s signature event.
For the majority of the three-day test, teams conducted single-car qualifying runs. On Saturday, teams participated in an afternoon drafting session where speeds topped near 200 mph.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton provided the attending media an update on the three-day test during the Saturday lunch break and he expects another classic Daytona 500 finish in the prestigious season-opening event.
“When it comes down to the trophy, the check and the trophy queen, all bets are off,” Pemberton said. “I expect them to run hard at the end (of the race) and make sure they are around for the end of the race and make sure they are positioned where they can get (to the checkered flag). There is no telling what you’ll see.”
Fastest of the day: In the morning session on Saturday, 2012 Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth topped the speed charts in the No. 20 Toyota from Joe Gibbs Racing with a lap speed of 194.062 mph. Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, was second fastest in the No. 21 Ford from Wood Brothers Racing with a lap of 193.686.
Danica Patrick, who will race the full NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule this year with Stewart Haas Racing, was third fastest with a speed of 193.648.
In the afternoon, Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle was fastest at 194.936 mph followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth (194.717) and Kyle Busch (194.578).