Over the next three days between 36 and 40 teams will be testing their 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars at the newly resurfaced Daytona International Speedway, Florida.
Rain is forecast for Thursday evening and rain turning to thunderstorms for most of Friday so you can expect the teams to try to maximise their track time on Thursday and, weather permitting, Saturday.
Following the laying of new tarmac the teams’ previous data will be of little or no help to them, the track’s previous washboard surface placing a premium on mechanical grip with the lowest drag possible commensurate with the suspension set-up. Now, with the much smoother surface the focus will be very much on achieving the lowest drag possible and there will be far less emphasis on suspension set-up for mechanical grip.
However the new front splitter introduced for 2011 is giving the teams something of a headache trying to find the compromise between the front not hitting the tarmac too hard or too often whilst retaining as much aero efficiency as possible. It is said the new front is also making the teams think more deeply about water and oil cooling too. For the spectators the main benefit of the redesign is the removal of the braces thus giving the front an altogether cleaner, more attractive look.
As part of the resurfacing work, last done in 1978, the pitlane has been widened by approximately three to four metres making pitstops safer and should allow for faster times on pitlane.
The new surface promises to make racing at Daytona more like its sister Superspeedway, Talladega, with long multi-vehicle drafts. Think in terms of a 200mph traffic jam. Daytona used to have quite a narrow useable line, now it has the potential for plenty of three-wide racing, with possible four and five-wide running occasionally. Time will tell whether the bump draft will work as well here as it does at Talladega. Certainly the drivers used bump drafting more effectively at last October’s meeting at the Alabama oval as they started to fully understand how it best works. NASCAR’s decision to reduce the restrictor plate for Daytona down to 29/32nds of an inch, a reaction to the speeds obtained in December’s test, will almost certainly lead to more drafting as the drivers try to compensate for the ensuing power loss. And with the increased likelihood of drafting comes the increased probability of multi-vehicle wrecks and a green-white-checker finish. They almost go hand in hand.
The testing is being shown live by Speed tv on their website www.speedtv.com and is being re-broadcast by Richmond International Raceway at www.rir.com There is a good chance at least one of those will be available to watch in the UK – taking place between 2 and 10pm our time. Drop in and see how it’s going when the boss isn’t looking over your shoulder or the wife is otherwise distracted.