The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series concluded its three day test at the Daytona International Speedway today and saw a very beneficial six sessions.
Most of them involved single car runs with very little “pack racing.” The one session featuring pack testing saw the “big one” occur yesterday and sent 12 race cars back to Charlotte with damage early.
Out of the 35 cars that took to the track this weekend 15 of them went home before today’s final two test sessions.
To summarize what we learned from the test, I wanted to take a look at who stole the show down in Daytona this weekend and who the top five guys to watch for next month in the Daytona for Speedweeks.
If there was a winner for a test Matt Kenseth would be it. The defending and two-time Daytona 500 champion was very quick from the first time they unloaded Thursday and looked very good. He’s my favorite to win the pole when they come back in a little over a month and will be a force to be beat in the “Great American Race.”
Kenseth was quickest in Thursday morning’s session with a speed of 192.757 mph then backed it up by looking good in the four car draft with his teammates and Mark Martin in the afternoon by going second quickest with a lap of 195.385 mph in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota.
On Friday, he was third quickest in the morning session with a lap of 193.121 mph which was yet another single car run and today he once again set the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 194.062 mph. That speed was the second quickest single car run of the whole weekend.
It’s been a while since Jeff Burton was relevant, but he seems to have a spark and little pep in his step this weekend by looking very strong. Burton, was near the top of the speed charts all weekend and set the fastest single car run lap of the three day test.
Burton set a lap of 194.805 mph in Friday morning’s session which held onto the top spot for single car run the rest of the time.
Chevy’s looked pretty strong and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Burton qualify well and race well in the Duels and 500. Maybe he can finally get his first Daytona 500 win this year?
It was a rough 2012 season for Busch. He missed the Chase and could never get any momentum. It was his worst season of his career. He vowed to change that luck entering this year and if the preseason test at Daytona was any indication I’d say he’s going to be a factor.
Busch, had never won the Daytona 500 and usually has bad luck in the biggest race of the season. This weekend though, his team and engine manufacturer showed great power and he looked great in the draft.
Busch was among the top five quickest on single car runs and was very quick in pack racing. With a new attitude and the cars being harder to drive around the 2.5-mile high banked oval I’d look for Busch to be a huge factor next month.
Trevor Bayne is usually a great qualifier on restrictor plate races and qualifies well at Daytona. Unfortunately for him, unless you qualify for the front row your qualifying position doesn’t matter. That may come back to help him though as Ford’s were a little down on speed compared to the Toyota’s and Chevy’s, but his car looked racy.
Bayne posted the weekend’s quickest speed at 199.650 mph. He did that in the draft, but his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford look good in the brief drafting session. The 2011 winner may shows us that win was no fluke and could be holding his second “500″ trophy at the end of the race next month.
Danica had a rough season last year. The learning curve showed to be too much as she struggled in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series. For most of the first test session she looked like it would be tough again. She was nine mph below the top speed and looked off. Then, in the final few minutes of the session she showed that we shouldn’t judge her opening laps because she ended up being third quickest of the session.
Patrick backed that up with being fast in every session besides the drafting one since she didn’t take part in it and should be a factor for the pole and the big race. She always runs well on restrictor plate tracks and has led almost every time she’s raced in them.
Last year, she was taken out on Lap 2 by a wreck not her fault and her Daytona 500 dreams ended early. She sat on the pole in the Nationwide race in February and had the best car in July, but was taken out in wrecks in those races which once again weren’t her fault.
If you want a sleeper to win next month she could do it. How big would a Danica victory be for NASCAR to start off the 2013 season?
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