NASCAR concluded its three-day test at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday in preparation for 55th Daytona 500.
In the final hour of Pre-Season Thunder, Greg Biffle topped the speed chart for single car runs with a lap of 194.936 mph. Dale Earnhardt Jr. logged the most laps (57) in the final test session, but his top speed of 194.405 mph was only the fourth-fastest behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth (194.717) and Kyle Busch (194.578). Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five with a lap of 194.158 with his Hendrick Engines-powered car.
Biffle's fellow Ford driver -- and 2011 Daytona 500 winner -- Trevor Bayne posted the fastest lap in the draft during the main pack test on Friday afternoon with a speed of 199.650 mph. However, once Earnhardt triggered a 12-car crash later in the session, teams shied away from multi-car action because of a low inventory of the new Generation 6 cars.
Out of the 34 teams that started the test in preparation for the 2013 Daytona 500 on Feb. 24, only 21 cars remained by Saturday.
Regardless, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton was pleased with the overall result of the new speedway cars. And he wasn't concerned that the early laps were inching toward 200 mph.
"We're in the ballpark," Pemberton said. "We know the teams will go back and they'll work, they'll bring a little bit better this, better that. So we feel comfortable with that.
"The racetrack is coming to us a little bit. Speeds will fluctuate a lot. They'll be better on new tires. It will drop off as it goes. But we're right in the ballpark. We don't foresee any changes."
Kenseth was fastest in the morning test with a lap of 194.062 mph, followed by Bayne, Danica Patrick, Paul Menard and Tony Stewart. Despite switching to JGR after 13 seasons with Roush Fenway Racing, the 2012 Daytona 500 champion appeared to acclimate quickly to his new team and crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
"I have been getting to know him a lot more on a personal level and just trying to get to know each other a little bit as not just a driver-crew chief relationship, but kind of build a relationship there so we know each other a little bit," Kenseth said. "I've really enjoyed that, and again we haven't raced together yet, but I've really enjoyed getting to know him this winter and spend some time at the shop and spend some time at the track at Charlotte and here as well."
Testing with the new Gen-6 cars continues at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday and Friday.
SATURDAY TESTING SPEEDS - AFTERNOON SESSION
1) Greg Biffle 194.936 mph
2) Matt Kenseth 194.717 mph
3) Kyle Busch 194.578 mph
4) Dale Earnhardt Jr. 194.405 mph
5) Juan Pablo Montoya 194.158 mph
6) Ryan Newman 194.083 mph
7) Carl Edwards 193.723 mph
8) Tony Stewart 193.432 mph
9) Danica Patrick 193.428 mph
10) Jimmie Johnson 193.063 mph
NASCAR teams are always searching for new places to test, and apparently Daytona International Speedway isn't the only facility on Florida's Sun Coast where competitors can shake down their latest and greatest efforts.
Research and development teams from Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing have discovered the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility just south of Daytona on Merritt Island in Brevard County - part of the Kennedy Space Center.
The 15,000-foot concrete runway, built for the Space Shuttle landing in 1984, is ideal for straight-line testing - where teams gather aerodynamic data. It's also more economically feasible than transporting cars from the North Carolina to the proving grounds in Arizona.
"We use the landing strip at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral just because it's a long, smooth straightaway, and it's warm, so in the wintertime you can test there with pretty controlled conditions," Richard Childress Racing director of competition Dr. Eric Warren said. "You work out a relationship with those guys and pay for the use of the facilities - like any other testing facility. They have their own on-site emergency crews, so the safety side of it is really nice.
"It's closer (than Arizona.). The weather is warmer, and it's a great wintertime alternative to going to places out West. Most of them are ovals and the straight-line facilities are up north - around Michigan and the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). We can do two straight-line segments there - as far as coast down. This place has plenty of distance."