The three-day Preseason Thunder test session for the 55th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race concluded on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
Teams and drivers have spent the past three days shaking down the Gen-6 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.
The new race car has greater brand identity for the manufacturers and will make its debut in The Sprint Unlimited, the star-studded non-points event on Saturday night, Feb. 16 that will feature the previous season’s pole winners and past champions of The Sprint Unlimited.
Budweiser Speedweeks will conclude on Sunday, Feb. 24 with “The Great American Race,” NASCAR’s signature event.
For the majority of the three-day test, teams conducted single-car qualifying runs. On Friday, teams participated in an afternoon drafting session where speeds topped near 200 mph. Twenty-one teams turned laps today as a majority left yesterday after a multi-car crash sent some home early.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton provided the attending media an update on the three-day test during the Saturday lunch break and he expects another classic Daytona 500 finish in the prestigious season-opening event.
“When it comes down to the trophy, the check and the trophy queen, all bets are off,” Pemberton said. “I expect them to run hard at the end (of the race) and make sure they are around for the end of the race and make sure they are positioned where they can get (to the checkered flag). There is no telling what you’ll see.”
In the morning session on Saturday, 2012 Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth topped the speed charts in the No. 20 Toyota from Joe Gibbs Racing with a lap speed of 194.062 mph. Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, was second fastest in the No. 21 Ford from Wood Brothers Racing with a lap of 193.686.
Kenseth will try to become a back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500 and do so with two different teams after his departure from Roush Fenway Racing to JGR.
“Man, if I could predict that I'd be making a bunch of money in Vegas, that's for sure,” Kenseth said. “These are always really unpredictable races. We're going to do everything we can just like you do every year. Show up down here and try to win the race. Like I said, it's always unpredictable. It's the biggest race of the year and there's a lot of effort that goes into these races and certainly plate racing is anything but predictable.
“Hopefully, we'll have cars like we did last year. Last year we had really, really fast cars and Greg (Biffle) and I were able to team up pretty much all four races and stay toward the front for all of those races. So, hopefully I'll have a car that runs like that again and can hang out up front somewhere and have a shot."
Danica Patrick, who will race the full NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule this year with Stewart Haas Racing, was third fastest with a speed of 193.648.
In the afternoon, Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle was fastest at 194.936 mph followed by Kenseth (194.717) and JGR teammate Kyle Busch (194.578).