The first two days of testing at Daytona have passed without any incidents of note, most of Friday morning being lost to track drying following heavy overnight storms.
The lull in on-track action gave drivers and NASCAR officials a chance to attend the media centre.
NASCAR president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton and managing director of competition John Darby took part in a scheduled update session but had no firm news to offer apart from definitely delaying the introduction of fuel injection to the 2012 season. It had originally been thought the changeover from carburettors would happen sometime during 2011.
They also discussed the possibility of changing the current points system before this season starts but claimed they are still looking at various options. The chance was taken to confirm news that had previously been leaked into the public domain, that drivers will only be able to score points in one championship.
In a nutshell they had a press conference to tell the media that at the next conference, scheduled for next Wednesday, they might well have something to tell them!
Despite only being able to race for one title several drivers have made it clear that they still intend to race for wins in other series. Joey Logano has committed to 22 races in the Nationwide Series possibly rising to 27 whilst Carl Edwards intends running a full season in the second division.
Edwards said, “I am going to start with the No. 60 team, running every race. We are going to start that way, see how it goes, and we still have the owners championship to go for and all those wins to race for. That is fun. That is what makes the Nationwide series fun. I would really love to have a championship battle with Brad [Keselowski]. Especially with him because of how well he ran last year. It would be nice to be able to race him for it. My plan is to run every race, but if we get eight or 10 races in and it isn't looking good, then I don't know what we would do. Whatever looks best for our Cup program at that point.”
Drivers were asked for their opinion of the resurfaced track and to a man were fulsome in their praise of just how smooth it is now – “as far as the ride, you literally could hold a cup of coffee with the lid off, full, and not spill a drop riding around” was Tony Stewart‘s observation – but more than a few expressed concerns about the transition from numbers 2 and 4 turns on to the straights being a bit abrupt. Kevin Harvick thought the transition onto the apron at the bottom of the track was more worrying, “I think the higher you get the more abrupt it is off of 2, but that's basically how it used to be. It's just the hardest thing for me is the lines. The yellow line like at Talladega is actually painted I believe on the racetrack and the one here is off the racetrack on the apron. So yesterday I touched the apron and about wrecked, so I think that that's going to be the biggest deal is just keeping your car off the apron because it seems like as you go into the corners there used to be a little bit more transition as far as the banking, leading up to the actual banking itself. That, or it was just so wore out that you couldn't really tell. But it seems like the apron is going to be a big deal if you touch it.”
It was Harvick, too, who explained best why only four cars took to the track for a drafting session on Thursday afternoon. “It’s unbelievable the amount of time and preparation that goes into these cars. A normal race car you can put a body on it in four days while these particular cars probably take twice that long, just in the fab [fabrication] shop. These cars will all run through the wind tunnel, once or twice at a minimum, and then you usually run them somewhere in the desert [such as automaker proving grounds in Yuma and Mesa, Arizona]. So there are just hours and hours put into these race cars. They’re not like a normal downforce car, so when you tear one up, you’re looking at putting yourself behind a month, on one car, to properly do it. Sure, you can build a car and you can paint it and put it all in there, but the final details of the car take months and hours and hours so it’s just not in the rotation at this point in the season to tear your car up.”
The weather forecast for Saturday at Daytona is cloudy during the morning and clear for the afternoon so the final day of testing should be free from interruptions. Most of the teams have a clearly defined programme they are working through so you can expect pretty much more of the same, just indivual cars on track gathering data. Goodyear had already settled on Talladega tyres on the left of the car and Texas tyres on the right. The suspension needs less refinement since the resurfacing so any work left to do is going to be aero or getting the front of the car as low as possible without the splitter hitting the tarmac.
Next week sees NASCAR’s Media Tour event, an annual trip which takes in many of the teams’ facilities, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will see the official announcements about any changes to the rules for this season, including whatever point system they will adopt and possible new criteria for qualifying for The Chase in the Sprint Cup Series. Whatever else is likely to happen this year NASCAR are most unlikely to leave things as they were.