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Dillon Tops Speed Charts At Thunder

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 11 2014

Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing turned the fastest lap on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

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Day Two brought dryer weather to Daytona International Speedway and that allowed the Sprint Cup cars to take to the track for the first time in Preseason Thunder testing.

Much of Friday’s test, which concluded at 9 p.m., featured single-car runs.

Fastest of the test was Richard Childress Racing rookie Austin Dillon, who posted a top speed of 195.109 mph in the No. 3 Chevrolet.

Rounding out the top five were Brian Scott (194.582), Matt Crafton (194.342), Aric Almirola (193.828) and Kyle Larson (193.411).

Forty-one drivers turned laps in Gen-6 Chevrolets, Fords and Toyotas, which are entering their second year of Cup competition. Those cars featured a new 4.5-inch spoiler, designed to add more rear downforce for stability. Results were positive. Thirty-three cars topped 190 mph and the new aero package performed well in traffic, which was tested in the draft during the final hour of testing.

“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,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. “So far speeds look to be what we expected.”

Pemberton was pleased with what he saw from all of Friday’s drivers, including retired NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace. The man who drove Team Penske to NASCAR prominence donned a throwback Miller Lite fire suit and turned laps in Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford.

Jimmie Johnson, six-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is gunning for back-to-back victories in the Daytona 500. Last year at Daytona, he became the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

“There is no other sensation when you come into a race track like there is here,” Johnson said. “Driving through the tunnel and popping out in Turn 4 and looking around and realizing you’re here is always a great way to start the season.”

Tony Stewart was in attendance for the test, but he wasn’t behind the wheel of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet. Stewart, who is still recovering from injuries suffered in a sprint car accident back in August, had Mark Martin shaking down his car.

Stewart plans on making his return to competition in The Sprint Unlimited on Saturday Feb. 15.

He is also still searching for that first Daytona 500 victory.

“February here is high on that bucket list,” said Stewart, who is winless in the Daytona 500 in 14 starts. “We haven’t won here yet. We’ve won here, just not on the right day. The second Sunday would be nice. That’s all that’s on the bucket list right now.”

Stewart expects to be cleared by doctors to return to the track on Feb. 14, the day before The Sprint Unlimited.

NASCAR Nationwide Series testing will take center stage at DIS on Saturday and Sunday as teams prepare for the season-opening DRIVE4COPD 300 on Saturday, Feb. 22. Among the drivers expected to participate in the two-day session are Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne.

Tickets for NASCAR Nationwide Series testing are $10 each day and are available only at the gate. Children 12 and under will receive free admission throughout testing. Fans can also watch each day’s testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 11 2014
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