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Many Storylines Featured During Preseason Thunder At Daytona

Many Storylines Featured During Preseason Thunder At Daytona

by January 10, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams hit the track for the first time in 2014 during Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway on Friday. Rain all day Thursday kept the teams in the garages and cut the 2 day practice session short

The majority of the day consisted of single cars runs, but towards the end of the session, there was a small pack of six cars. Last year many drivers were caught up in accidents, so it appeared that crew chiefs just wanted to collect data, avoid pack racing and just bring their equipment home in one piece.

“Yeah, I think everybody knows or understands with a year under our belt with the Gen-6 car it’s pretty straightforward,” Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition and Racing Development said. “Had a small spoiler change, and basically this is pretty — it’s a comfortable zone for the teams to be into, so really this test is all about the teams and those guys working on their set-ups and their engine packages and things of that nature.  So, so far speeds look to be what we expected.”

Austin Dillon in the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet topped the board Friday night with a lap time of 46.128 seconds, followed by his teammates, Brian Scott and Matt Crafton who was subbing for Paul Menard. Aric Almirola and his new chief, Trent Owens were the fastest in the Ford camp. They finished the day in fourth. Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five. The fastest Toyota was Denny Hamlin in ninth.

Aside from the test at Charlotte Motor Speedway back in December, this was the first time fans were able to view the drivers with their new teams. During the offseason, a few teams changed names; Penske Racing is now Team Penske, and instead of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, the team will be referred to as Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

NASCAR Hall of Famer, Rusty Wallace assisted Team Penske and Brad Keselowski as he got back behind the wheel of the “Blue Deuce” for the first time since his retirement. Wallace was even atop the speed charts for an extended amount of time.

“Well, for me I guess the big question is I’ve had a lot of people ask why you’re here, why you’re doing this; what’s the deal with you testing,” Rusty Wallace said. “And it really stemmed from a conversation in Homestead when I came by to see the 2 car and I came by to see other cars, and the 48 and the 2 were parked side by side.  I talked to the 2 car guys, and they said, I wish you’d get back in the car every now and then and do some testing with us.  I said, well, we’ll see about it.

“I really kind of thought they were joking around, and when they heard about it, Ron Malec and his 48 guys were kind of egging him on, saying, hey, Rusty you ought to do that.  About two weeks later I get a text from Brad, and he said, hey, I’d be all for that.  I’d be okay with that.  Why don’t you try it.”

Even though there wasn’t too much action on-track, there were several announcements that will excite fans for the upcoming season and beyond.

Steve Letarte who’s currently the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., will be joining NBC’s coverage of the sport starting in 2015. He will join Jeff Burton who was announced in 2013.

“I have never been able to do it in a capacity where I feel it was my responsibility to bring much to the broadcast other than my color and expertise because as the color guys when you get invited in as a crew chief you really don’t have to prepare much,” Steve Letarte said. “It’s going to be a new challenge, an exciting challenge.  I think I’ve learned a lot in 19 years in the garage area of how to prepared for events and be prepared for whatever could come at you, so I do agree with both of them we’ll be able to put on great broadcasts, and I think NASCAR has built a great sport.”

Fans will once again be able to choose how the 75-lap Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway will play out by voting via the NASCAR MOBILE app or on NASCAR.com. Voting categories include the number of laps in each segment, the starting order and the restart order on the final restart. Each category has three options to choose from.

On Friday afternoon, NASCAR announced that qualifying procedures will change following Speedweeks in Daytona. There were no specifics, but options such as Euro and knock-out qualifying were among the rumors. NASCAR didn’t say when they’d announce the new format, but with the Sprint Media Tour and NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony being held at the end of January, that might be the most favorable timing.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will test Saturday and Sunday, and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be at Daytona International Speedway Monday and Tuesday. Both series have new coolant packages, so expect to see pack racing heavily throughout the sessions.

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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