The value of bump drafting was shown on Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway when Brad Keselowski set a fastest lap of 198.605 mph whilst drafting with his teammate, Kurt Busch, in the #2 Miller Lite and #22 Shell Pennzoil Dodges respectively and it will come as no surprise to learn that Busch was second fastest. Typical speeds for cars running alone was in the region of 185mph and it is for that reason that NASCAR do not anticipate reducing the restrictor plate size.
Of drafting at Daytona, only really feasible since the resurfacing late last year, Keselowski said, “It’s a completely new breed of racing. It will take an intelligent duo to pull it off. From a driver’s side, it’s similar to a baton relay. If you have the two fastest runners in the world and you put them in a baton relay and they can’t exchange, an average Joe that can exchange will beat them.”
All drivers resolutely refused to get into multi vehicle drafts, permitted by NASCAR in the afternoon sessions, but for the Saturday’s final session several teams sent their drivers out in pairs to get some bump draft practice. Among those were the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin in the Toyotas, Logano being fastest in the morning session getting the #20 Home Depot car round in 45.566 seconds, a speed of 197.516 mph.
Others to opt for tandem running were the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, the Earnhardt-Ganassi pair, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray in the #42 Target and #1 Bass Pro Shops sponsored cars respectively.
Of the drivers who ran solo around the Florida track Roush Fenway‘s Greg Biffle was fastest with the Earnhardt Ganassi pair running just a fraction slower.
There are many doubting the two-car breakaway drafts will not be as effective here as they are at Talladega. Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said at the end of practice, “Everybody’s working on a little different agenda, and it’s all trying to find that edge to win the Daytona 500. I think this test has done more in building confidence. There’s always some anxiety around what happens when a track repaves.”
Racing starts at Daytona with the Budweiser Shootout on February 12th and eight days later will be the start of the Sprint Cup Series for 2011 with NASCAR’s jewel in the crown, the Daytona 500.