On Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams took their first crack at working with a number of new rules and implementations for the 2012 season at restrictor plate tracks.
"It's important for us to test down here, not only for the teams, but for us," said vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "We've had track tests at Daytona and Talladega and we've been in the wind tunnel several times. We think we're making some great strides. The test is going pretty good for us. The teams are learning about their equipment and the limits they will be under with water temperatures and things like that. We've seen softer springs, a smaller spoiler and a reduction in downforce. We're pleased with the progress we've made so far."
Included among the changes was a potential crackdown on drafting in tandem pairs, but teams still were able to do that in part during the day's afternoon session.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were among seven drivers who all topped 200mph in tandem drafting, and posted the two quickest laps of the day at 202.402 and 202.388mph. Two of the three Gibbs drivers – Logano and Denny Hamlin – begin this test with new crew chiefs (Jason Ratcliff for Logano and Darian Grubb for Hamlin).
Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and new recruit AJ Allmendinger also turned the trick, with near identical best laps at 202.224 and 202.220, respectively.
Hendrick Motorsports also eclipsed 200 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson, while Kasey Kahne got close at 199.791. Jeff Gordon was fastest in the single-car morning session, at only 192.773. A full 2.2sec separated the fastest tandem time (44.466 by Busch) to Gordon's 46.687 in the morning.
In her first Sprint Cup test, Danica Patrick posted a best speed of 191.926mph for Stewart Haas Racing, with her team boss and defending champion Tony Stewart at a similar 191.951 for his best speed.