Daytona To Begin Sprint Cup Testing today
It was like watching three kids at play, only these kids were tickling the 130-mph mark in Daytona 500 pace cars over Daytona International Speedway's 2.5-mile tri-oval.
Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano -- all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers from the Toyota camp -- offered the media high-speed laps on the high banks.
It was exhilarating for media members, as the three ran their Toyota pace cars together at close range on a wet track.
Logano, the 21-year-old driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, had a wide smile after exiting his pace car for the day. But when he gets behind the wheel today for Day 1 of Preseason Thunder at DIS, it will be all business.
Logano and the sport's top drivers are testing a new rules package designed to stop tandem racing. The two-car draft strategy was discovered here during last year's Preseason Thunder sessions and used extensively in the Daytona 500, the Coke Zero 400 and the two races at Talladega Superspeedway.
Race fans enjoyed the novelty of tandem racing in the 500, but they grew tired of it by season's end. NASCAR hopes a new rules package, which features a smaller engine cooling system, will put a stop to the technique for the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.
"This test is going to be very important," Logano said Wednesday on Daytona's pit road. "With the new rules, we'll be able to see how long we can do the two-car push. My thought is we won't be able to do it very long.
"I think it will be one of those deals where you use it when you have to. I think we'll end up in a big pack like we used to be. (Today) will provide some of the answers to that."
A good test could signal a solid 500 run, which could spark a competitive season for Logano, who finished 24th in the points standings last season.
His teammates at JGR, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, combined for five wins and both made the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.
Logano marches into 2012 -- his fourth full season of Cup competition -- without crew chief Greg Zipadelli, who left Gibbs Racing to become competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Zipadelli guided driver Tony Stewart to a pair of championships in the No. 20 for JGR. Stewart won the championship last season driving in his own equipment.
"Zippy" will be replaced atop the pit box by Jason Ratcliff, who spent seven years as crew chief of Gibbs' No. 18 car in the Nationwide Series.
"I'm a fan of change," Logano said. "I'm very excited about it. Me and Jason have a communication. The few races we ran together on the Nationwide side, he knows how to pull information out of me.
"I think we'll have the relationship that, if he gets mad at me, we can yell and scream and we'll be OK about it. We will be very open and behind each other no matter what."
Logano, at one time nicknamed "Sliced Bread," said the Sprint Cup Series has made him "grow up very, very quick" and has helped him learn how to deal with people.
"It's made me learn how to get through certain situations that as a young person you don't know," he said. "I've learned a lot about dealing with situations. I've learned more in my last three years than I did my whole racing career before that." Daytona Beach News Journal