With the off-season changes that were made, many are optimistic about Joe Gibbs Racing's chances in 2013 for the championship. They showed on Thursday at Daytona that they are fast as they led both practice sessions.
While most stuck to single-car runs for day one, Denny Hamlin tried out drafting in the afternoon session, topping the chart with a speed of 195.986 mph. Hamlin will miss the next two days to be home with his girlfriend Jordan Fish, who is expecting a baby any day now.
Hamlin went out on track and drafted with teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, along with fellow Toyota driver Mark Martin, to get a feel for what the car will be like in the draft as this marks the first test for the Generation 6 car.
The 2013 season marks the debut of the Generation 6 car, which is part of NASCAR’s continuing work to improve the cars. The new car is meant to be safer than the Car of Tomorrow. The other main difference is NASCAR getting back to their roots as the cars look like the cars right off the street.
During the test, Hamlin already noticed one difference in that he couldn’t clearly close up on Kenseth’s bumper.
“I think it’s just the way these bodies are with the aero platform and everything,” he said. “It’s just going to lend itself more to the pack racing. Like I said, it seems like the second car is getting just as much air thrown on the nose as what the front car is so it’s harder to suck up to the front car, which in turn will make for better pack racing versus two-car tandem.”
After leading the morning session with a single-car run, Kenseth was second in the afternoon after the drafting. This marks Matt Kenseth’s second time testing a car with Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2003 Sprint Cup Champion left Roush Fenway Racing. His first test was last month when the Generation 6 car was tested for the first time at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The third Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Kyle Busch, was third on the afternoon speed chart while Waltrip was fourth.
Richard Childress Racing driver Jeff Burton was the highest of the drivers to do single-car runs, fifth in the charts, with a speed of 194.620 mph. His teammate Paul Menard was sixth, three tenths off of Burton.
Danica Patrick was seventh as she enters her first full Sprint Cup Series season with Stewart-Haas Racing after running the full Nationwide Series schedule last year with JR Motorsports.
In the morning session, defending Daytona 500 champion Kenseth topped the charts with Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marcos Ambrose was second on the speed charts, 0.005 seconds behind Kenseth.
Danica Patrick was third on the chart with a speed of 192.583 mph. Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Paul Menard rounded out the top five.
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski was 31st on both the morning and afternoon speed charts.
Testing continues tomorrow and Saturday with teams continuing to collect data and test the waters with drafting.