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Things Go Bump In The Afternoon At Daytona

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 11 2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one of the drivers involved in Friday's big wreck at Daytona. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Cleary)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

News, notes and quotes from Friday’s second day of Preseason Thunder testing:

Sprint Cup drivers finally got around to serious drafting during Friday’s testing at Daytona International Speedway and the result was a multi-car wreck which took out several of the sport’s top drivers.

Among the drivers involved were Dale Earnhardt Jr., defending champion Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch.

None of the drivers involved were seriously injured.

The wreck, which occurred early in the afternoon session of the test, began when Earnhardt Jr. clipped Marcos Ambrose from behind.

“We were going around (turns) 1 and 2,” Earnhardt said. “I felt like Marcus (Ambrose) was backing up to me in 1 and 2 to get a run down the back. I was just going to give him a push down the back straightaway and see if he could get the lead. I was trying to eventually get the lead myself. We got off the back straightaway and were just kind of pushing him along there and our cars sort of just didn’t match up very well. I got him hooked into the fence. I pushed Martin (Truex) a little bit in his Toyota and they matched up good.

“The bumpers were good, didn’t have any problem with any of the cars. That is the first time I pushed a Ford. The roll bar of the front of my car is just at the right place where his car sets right up on top of that. I sort of had him going down the back straightaway like a forklift. It was a big mess and tore up a lot of cars down here trying to work on their stuff. Definitely the drafting is not like it used to be. You can’t really tandem certain cars; certain cars don’t match up well. Our bumpers on the Chevy’s have a little bit of a point. It makes it a little bit of a challenge to get into guys and kind of help them. We definitely weren’t doing that in the corner at all because it was pretty hairy trying to do it on the straightaways.”

Ambrose said, “You know, I had junior pushing me. He’s just a great drafter, really can feel it well. I guess I just got caught on the edge of the bumper there and with the shaped noses and the tires, just spun me out. It was hardly even a bump. It was just enough at the wrong angle, wrong time and just went for a spin. I feel bad for everybody because quite a few cars were torn up there.”

Among the new parts on the new cars is a revamped front windshield.

According to Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle, “It is two pieces of material with something in the center similar to a passenger car windshield that has the protective stuff in the middle of it. Typically when you layer something it becomes stronger than a single piece anyway.”

Good stuff, Biffle said.

“I am really happy about that. That has always been a concern of mine, something coming through the front of the car. I hit a piece of brake rotor at Charlotte last year and it sounded like a shotgun went off inside the car. It was amazing. It blew all the window braces out of the windshield and they were hanging in the steering wheel and I was trying to throw pieces off of my hands before the corner came. The windshield and hitting big pieces of metal on the race track has been a concern. That is new for this year.”

A brief Q and A with Matt Kenseth, who has moved from Roush Fenway Racing Fords to Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas for the 2013 season:

Q – Have you experienced any differences between the way Roush operates compared to Joe Gibbs Racing?

A – “Yeah, a lot of differences, but everything has been really great. I don’t think it could be any better. Obviously we haven’t been to the race track and been racing yet and the results pretty much tell the story and we’re a few months away from really seeing results. I’ve been extremely encouraged. I’m really optimistic about the season, really like my group and really like the way they do things over at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and the cars. Of course, Denny (Hamlin) and Kyle (Busch) — there’s not many people that win more races than those guys so I’m excited to work with them guys and learn from them guys and hopefully be able to contribute as well.”

Q – Have you learned anything about Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch since joining the team?

A – “No, not really. Charlotte was a really good test. Denny (Hamlin) was there and Kyle (Busch) wasn’t at that test, so I got to work with Denny a little bit and drove his car. We went back and forth and got to talk a lot and look at a lot of data and do a lot of stuff. I think we both — at least I learned a lot from that test. Kyle is going to be at the next Charlotte test and I’m looking forward to going there and running with him and talking to him and working with him about different things on the cars and changes and things like that. Daytona you can’t really compare much at Daytona. There’s not really a lot to talk about as far as car setups.”

Q – Have you learned anything about your teammates on a personal level?

A – “Nah. We haven’t been out on a date or anything yet with either one of them so I haven’t really learned anything on a personal level. Just been working on racing stuff. Probably can see the same stuff you guys can see, but other than that I haven’t really learned anything on a personal level about them I didn’t already know.”

Q – Have you noticed any differences between Toyota and Ford?

A – “I’m not going to compare stuff. I’m looking 100 percent forward and not looking back so it’s not really fair to compare anything. But, I will say both tests so far my cars have been really fast. I really like how they drive. I really like how they react to change and been pretty encouraged with how everything has been going so far.”

Pre-season testing for the new Gen 6 cars will continue at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Thursday and Friday, Jan. 17-18.

Fans are invited to attend free of charge.

Behind-the-scenes tours and concessions will be available for purchase. Plus, every fan that buys a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or NHRA ticket in the speedway ticket office during the test will receive a free 1:24-scale diecast car.

The new car made its on-track debut in December at the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway to positive reviews from many drivers and crew chiefs. Drivers are looking forward to hitting the track one more time before they return in May for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600.

“The car has really awesome potential,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the test in December. “I like it already, leaps and bounds beyond the COT or the old car we ran. This car really gives me a lot of sensations that are similar to the old car that we ran four years ago. We have got a lot of things to learn about it.”

Among the teams expected to participate in the test are Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and more.

Testing will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with a break for lunch at noon. Each day, the General Motors grandstands will open at 8:30 a.m. for the public to enjoy the test session. Fans should enter through gate 5A, by the main ticket office.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 11 2013
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