Clint Bowyer topped the time sheets during the first NASCAR Sprint Cup testing session of the year at Daytona on Thursday, as teams kicked off a three-day program which got their on-track preparation for the season opener under way.
Richard Childress driver Bowyer set a fastest lap of 48.855 seconds at an average speed of 184.219mph, with Chevrolet Impalas sweeping the top five spots with four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon finishing second best, ahead of Mark Martin and the Earnhardt Ganassi duo of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya. Reigning Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski was sixth in the No. 2 Penske Dodge.
Drivers and teams focused on single-car qualifying-type runs on the new surface, which continues to show the improved grip and smoothness already evident when a number of cars laid rubber on it for the first time last December during a Goodyear tire test.
"It's almost an identical feeling to what we have at Talladega," said two-time champion Tony Stewart following the session. "Obviously the transitions off [Turns] 2 and 4 are a little more abrupt than what we have at Talladega, but as far as the ride, you literally could hold a full cup of coffee with the lid off and not spill a drop riding around there."
Besides the new nose on the Cup cars, all teams were also running with the new Sunoco Green E15 gasoline, as well as testing the new self-ventilated dump cans that will be used during pit stops this year.
A total of 33 cars completed laps during the session, the caution flags only being displayed for debris on the track. Teams finished off the day with an afternoon drafting session (click here) for details.