For the first time in 2013, cars rolled onto the track at Daytona International Speedway as NASCAR Preseason Thunder, the testing sessions that kick-off each NASCAR season, began under sunny Florida skies and a warm sun.
Matt Kenseth led the speed charts for most of the day as teams were skiddish of drafing with new Gen 6 cars. Kenseth and Denny Hamlin were the first and only cars to draft in the morning session. Most teams are still in the process of building new fleets of cars, so parts are in high demand and preserving the cars that have been built is a priority at the moment.
Single car runs were the order of the day. After the noon lunch break, Jeff Burton found his way to the top of heap and held fast until the late moments of the session when the Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kenseth, plus Mark Martin in the Michael Waltrip number 55, took to drafting on the speedway in group for the first time. On their first lap as a group, the four car draft jumped to fastest.
One, and perhaps the primary, reason that the JGR team were the only cars to draft in a pack was to benefit driver Denny Hamlin. Hamlin and girlfriend Jordan are expecting a baby anytime now, so JGR planned for a one day test and wanted to ensure that Hamlin received time in the draft.
Most see that times during a test that has zero technical inspections… on a super speedway where a driver can “sniff” a distant car thus giving a false high speed on the chart. There are, however, plenty that will analyze every aspect of every lap possible. For those people, here are the speeds from Day 1 of NASCAR Preseason Thunder.