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NASCAR Preseason Thunder Day 1: Kyle Busch leads Toyota 1-2
There was no shortage of conversation – or anything off-limits – during Day 1 of Media Availability during Preseason Thunder Testing Thursday in Daytona.

From spoilers to drafting to beards – all were topics du jour.

A full field of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers tackled Daytona International Speedway for the first of a three-day test as teams make their final preparations for the 54th running of the Daytona 500, February 26.

“It’s important for us to test down here, not only for the teams, but for us,” said Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton. “We’ve had track tests at Daytona and Talladega and we’ve been in the wind tunnel several times. We think we’re making some great strides. The test is going pretty good for us. The teams are learning about their equipment and the limits they will be under with water temperatures and things like that. We’ve seen softer springs, a smaller spoiler and a reduction in downforce. We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made so far.”

Jeff Gordon led 31 cars during the morning session of practice with a top speed of 192.773. Teams practiced single and two-car runs in the morning session, but for most, the excitement of returning to Daytona and the thrill of the “The Great American Race,” only 45 days away, certainly added to the intensity of the day.

“A lot of effort goes into this race, “said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “Winning the 500 is the biggest race of the year. It is the greatest feeling. The effort is quadruple when it comes to how much goes into the engines just for that race and the bodies of the cars. So it’s a pretty big deal when you win.”

The winning car of this year’s Daytona 500 will be the first car in the history of the sport to score a victory with a fuel injected engine.

“I feel like there is a crack in the floodgates,” said veteran driver Mark Martin. “I think there is a huge amount of electronics and adjustments and so much that can be done by those guys on the computer, instead of all those years I spent with Jack [Roush] with the carburetor apart up in the trailer.”

The afternoon drafting session belonged to the Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, respectively, with Busch posting a top speed of 202.402.

What will tomorrow bring for these teams? More knowledge for them to get ready for one of the biggest races of the year.

“We’ll gather our information and we’ll talk with the teams,” said Pemberton in regards to practicing different forms of drafting. “That’s why we have a three-day test.”

Among the lighter moments of Day 1 was a wager involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth. Earnhardt threw a 1970s-themed party during the offseason, and Kenseth grew a mutton-chop beard for the occasion. Earnhardt bet Kenseth $2,500 that Kenseth wouldn’t keep the beard through this week’s testing sessions. The winner? Well, a clean-shaven Kenseth walked into the Daytona deadline room during Day 1 of testing.


KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How did the two-car tandem draft feel with the new NASCAR rules?
"Today with the new rule package and everything for the cars it certainly changed it a little bit, not a whole lot.  There's some different elements -- the drivers really have to work hard trying to make sure that you stay connected and that you can get air into the intake for the radiator.  Other than that, it's kind of good just to get back in a race car and get back to the feeling of everything."

What will it be like not to have communication with your teammates in the draft?
"It's going to be a lot more difficult.  So far here at the test they've allowed us at least to talk to each other.  Coming down to race time, we're not supposed to.  It's definitely going to make it challenging.  You're going to have to go through talking to your spotter, your spotter talking to his spotter, his spotter talking to him so there's too many different channels that you have to go through to get the communication going."

DAVE ROGERS, crew chief, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How did the new NASCAR rules affect the draft?
"Today was a good example that you can't unlearn things that you learned in the past.  Everyone in the garage area learned that the fastest way around here is to have two cars hooked up bumper-to-bumper and go.  We're never going to forget that.  I know NASCAR is working really hard at making some new rules to bunch us back up, but as racers we're going to take whatever route is the fastest -- that's the name of the game.  Right now it still looks like two cars tied up is faster than a pack is going to be.  The rules are going to have impact.  Cars can't hook up as long, they can't stay nose-to-tail as long as they used to and when they do stay nose-to-tail for a longer time then the guy in the back has to pull further to the outside of the guy leading.  You will see a different style race in February based on the rule changes, but you're still going to see a bunch of racers try to hook up nose-to-tail."

How long could the cars stay hooked up in the draft?
"With the rule changes that NASCAR made, they really tied our hands.  You can only stay hooked up bumper-to-bumper, center line to center line a half to three-quarters of a lap.  So NASCAR accomplished their goal there.  You can go longer when you pull out to the side.  If you pull far enough out you can ride there all day.  The more you pull out, the longer you can ride there, but the slower you are.  If you need more speed you're going to pull in center line to center line, if you need to stay cooler longer then you're going to get that grill opening exposed to clean air.  Drivers are going to have their hands full trying to figure out what they need to do and when they need to do it -- and when do you lay all the cards on the table."

JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How did the two-car tandem work with you and Kyle Busch?
"Oh man, we we're pushing like crazy.  It was alright.  It was okay.  We're just working with what we need to do to try to be able to do it again with the rules changes and stuff like that.  It's made it super hard.  It works good in practice right now, but when we get a bunch of cars around us in a racing situation, it's probably not going to work as good.  We'll kind of see what happens.  I wish we could get a lot of cars out there and I think that will be happening in the next couple of days, maybe tomorrow.  I'm sure there will be a lot more cars out their drafting.  Hopefully, something like that happens and it comes along good and we'll have a better read than where we are at.  We're trying some things -- trying to keep our car as cool as we can, some handling things, getting pushed and stuff like that."

What do you anticipate in a big group?
"I wish we got more cars out there today to know for sure, but I really think that we're not going to be pushing as much.  I think there will be a little bit of pushing and I think there will be a lot of old school draft, or whatever you want to call it.  I think a lot of people are going to save it until the end and a lot of people won't be able to do it for a very long time.  I think it's going to kind of look like the races when we first started to figure out how to do this two-car draft and only some people were doing it and some other people were just doing the regular draft.  All that is probably going to look similar to that than what we had before."

What are your thoughts on eliminating the in-race communication between drivers?
"I'm hoping they change that back, because it ain't going to pretty if we can't talk to each other."

Combined Results


Car No. Driver Manu. Time Speed Session
1 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 44.466 202.402 D1PM
2 20 Joey Logano Tyt 44.469 202.388 D1PM
3 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 44.505 202.224 D1PM
4 22 AJ Allmendinger Dge 44.506 202.220 D1PM
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 44.794 200.920 D1PM
6 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 44.795 200.915 D1PM
7 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 44.965 200.156 D1PM
8 5 Kasey Kahne Chv 45.047 199.791 D1PM
9 55 Mark Martin Tyt 45.782 196.584 D1PM
10 15 Clint Bowyer Tyt 45.782 196.584 D1PM
11 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Frd 46.164 194.957 D1PM
12 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 46.482 193.623 D1PM
13 24 Jeff Gordon Chv 46.687 192.773 D1AM
14 27 Paul Menard Chv 46.726 192.612 D1PM
15 27 Paul Menard Chv 46.785 192.369 D1AM
16 51 Kurt Busch Chv 46.787 192.361 D1AM
17 51 Kurt Busch Chv 46.835 192.164 D1PM
18 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Frd 46.885 191.959 D1AM
19 14 Tony Stewart Chv 46.887 191.951 D1PM
20 10 Danica Patrick Chv 46.893 191.926 D1PM
21 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 46.911 191.853 D1AM
22 48 Jimmie Johnson Chv 46.933 191.763 D1AM
23 16 Greg Biffle Frd 46.941 191.730 D1PM
24 31 Jeff Burton Chv 46.945 191.714 D1PM
25 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chv 46.969 191.616 D1PM
26 16 Greg Biffle Frd 46.987 191.542 D1AM
27 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 46.997 191.502 D1PM
28 10 Danica Patrick Chv 47.004 191.473 D1AM
29 9 Marcos Ambrose Frd 47.007 191.461 D1PM
30 39 Ryan Newman Chv 47.01 191.449 D1PM
31 31 Jeff Burton Chv 47.019 191.412 D1AM
32 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 47.022 191.400 D1AM
33 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 47.025 191.388 D1AM
34 14 Tony Stewart Chv 47.032 191.359 D1AM
35 18 Kyle Busch Tyt 47.037 191.339 D1AM
36 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 47.052 191.278 D1PM
37 20 Joey Logano Tyt 47.059 191.249 D1AM
38 21 Trevor Bayne Frd 47.061 191.241 D1PM
39 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 47.095 191.103 D1PM
40 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 47.102 191.075 D1PM
41 39 Ryan Newman Chv 47.11 191.042 D1AM
42 11 Denny Hamlin Tyt 47.122 190.994 D1AM
43 17 Matt Kenseth Frd 47.134 190.945 D1AM
44 5 Kasey Kahne Chv 47.16 190.840 D1AM
45 29 Kevin Harvick Chv 47.176 190.775 D1AM
46 15 Clint Bowyer Tyt 47.199 190.682 D1AM
47 55 Mark Martin Tyt 47.225 190.577 D1AM
48 9 Marcos Ambrose Frd 47.238 190.525 D1AM
49 43 Aric Almirola Frd 47.255 190.456 D1AM
50 78 Regan Smith Chv 47.266 190.412 D1PM
51 1 Jamie McMurray Chv 47.269 190.400 D1AM
52 99 Carl Edwards Frd 47.285 190.335 D1PM
53 43 Aric Almirola Frd 47.296 190.291 D1PM
54 78 Regan Smith Chv 47.374 189.978 D1AM
55 22 AJ Allmendinger Dge 47.419 189.797 D1AM
56 99 Carl Edwards Frd 47.435 189.733 D1AM
57 36 Dave Blaney Chv 47.453 189.661 D1PM
58 2 Brad Keselowski Dge 47.504 189.458 D1AM
59 13 Casey Mears Frd 47.508 189.442 D1AM
60 56 Martin Truex Jr. Tyt 47.633 188.945 D1AM
61 13 Casey Mears Frd 47.671 188.794 D1PM
62 87 Joe Nemechek Tyt 48.038 187.352 D1PM
63 87 Joe Nemechek Tyt 48.304 186.320 D1AM

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