Preseason Thunder: The Big One Sends Many Home After Drafting During Daytona Test

481390_10151345448202422_619578988_nThis pretty much says it all.

After teams voluntarily made single car runs an exclusive in the morning practice session, a familiar sight at Daytona came back. Drafting. Teams were hesitant to form a pack during the course of the test, mostly due to a lack of components and cars needed to repair and replace mangled or damaged equipment.

The drafting started with drivers minding their manners and taking it easy. Well, as easy as you can at 199.000 mph on a super speedway. Then, about an hour into the practice session, the big one. Twelve cars tangled after Dale Earnhardt Jr. bumped Marcos Ambrose, sending Ambrose spinning and the field in chaos.

“We were going around one and two I thought Marcos was backing up to me,” Earnhardt said to Speed’s Bob Dillner. “It looked like he was laying off the leader a little bit, looking to get a run on the back straightaway. We came down off of two and I was trying to push him a little bit and had a hard time getting our bumpers to line up. There is a roll bar on the front of my car and his car. Thats the first time I had pushed him forward and his car sit up on top of that roll bar and then I was kinda wheel barreling him around a little bit and ended up getting him turned I guess. I was hoping I didn’t’ start it, I don’t know if I did.”

Earnhardt did, in fact, “start” the big one, and Marcos Ambrose agrees with Earnhardt that the shape of the cars is what really started the crash.

“I guess I just got caught on the edge of his bumper there,” Ambrose said. “The shape of the nose and the tires just spun me out. It was hardly even a bump. It was just enough at the wrong angle, wrong time and I just went for a spin.”

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski also attributes the overall change in the cars. He said that drivers need to take a look back to the way they used to race before the days of the Car of Tomorrow.

“The sport is rewinding,” said Keselowski. “That’s an important thing to say, because the sport advanced to where got to the two car tandem about three or four years ago and there were certain things you could do then that you could never do in the past without wrecking. Now the rules package has been changed back to where it was in the early 2000s. I think the fans and everyone else enjoyed the racing a little bit better [referring to racing in a pack versus tandems], so as drivers we have to rewind back to how we used drive those cars and this is how you do it. You learn and make mistakes.”

Following the crash, single car runs filled the remainder of the day and possibly will be the order of things tomorrow.

Several teams loaded up their mangled machines to return home while others are doing so without any damage at all. The Michael Watrip Racing trio of Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr., and Clint Bowyer will not participate in tomorrow’s sessions. Neither will Scott Speed in the 95 car. The only teams involved in today’s accident that will return tomorrow are Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards.

Earnhardt’s car wasn’t damaged by the nudge that sparked the crash. Busch’s car received repairable damage to the left rear and Carl Edwards is driving for the only team that has a backup car to use.

Timing and Scoring from the afternoon practice session:

NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona – Day 2 – Practice Session 2 – Afternoon


Preseason Thunder: Second Day Morning at Daytona Goes to Childress

BAVpF6BCIAARWxz.jpg-largeDay two of NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway got off to a fast start. The Richard Childress Racing group topped the speed charts as single car runs once again dominated the session.

Jeff Burton was fastest with a speed of 194.805 mph, teammate Kevin Harvick followed suit with a speed of 193.557 mph. Matt Kenseth separated Paul Menard from his teammates with Menard running the fourth best speed. Rookie Austin Dillon, in a fourth RCR machine is testing various engine packages for the team today but still pulled out the 10th fastest time in single car runs during the morning session.

The first incident on track with the Gen 6 car featured Dave Blaney. Blaney’s Tommy Baldwin Racing number 36 broke loose coming off of turn two and slapped the outside wall with the right front. Damage continued along the right side of the car and rear quarter panels and bumper. Unfortunately for Blaney and TBR, the team does not have a backup nor replacement parts. The damage put an end to their Daytona test.

The team posted this on their official Facebook Page, “After a bit of bad luck, our Daytona testing is done. Dave made contact with the wall off of Turn 2. We don’t have a backup, so we will go back to the shop and fix this car to get it ready for the Daytona 500.”

For the stat lovers out there, here is the official timing and scoring from the morning practice session.

NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona – Day 2 – Practice Session 1 – Morning

PRESEASON THUNDER: Joe Gibbs Racing Leads Day 1 at Daytona

318029_10151346478574222_1918388885_nFor 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.

NASCAR Preseason Thunder – Day 1 – Practice Session 1 – Morning

NASCAR Preseason Thunder – Day 1 – Practice Session 2 – Afternoon

Michael Waltrip Will Drive Daytona 500 for Swan Racing

Michael-WaltripMichael Waltrip will team up with former crew chief Tony Eury Jr., and Swan Racing to compete in the 2013 Daytona 500. The one-race deal allows Waltrip another chance to compete in “The Great American Race” without detracting from the resources of his own Michael Waltrip Racing. The deal also allows Swan Racing an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience from working with a Daytona 500 winner in their Sprint Cup Series debut.

“I am thrilled to drive the No. 30 Toyota for Swan Racing and the chance to win a third Daytona 500,” said Waltrip about the one-race deal. “Reuniting with Tony Jr. and Steve Hmiel brings back a lot of good memories and is going to create new ones.”

“Swan Racing is here to compete and to build a championship contender,” said Swan Racing owner Brandon Davis. “This one-race partnership with Michael puts a two-time champion behind the wheel and the No. 30 in the mix at the Daytona 500.”

Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. looks to benefit from past experience of working with Waltrip.

“Michael is a familiar face for a lot of us here at Swan Racing,” said Eury. “We know each other’s habits, wants and needs on the track.  We’re going to Daytona to compete and hopefully we’ll make a mark for Swan Racing.”

For the remainder of the 2013 season, David Stremme is slated to drive the number 30 Swan Racing Toyota. For the Daytona 500, Stremme gladly steps aside to benefit the team.

“This is a great move for Swan Racing,” said Stremme. “Michael and I have been friends for a long time.  We got to talking last year and from my perspective I thought this would help to further our relationship with Toyota and be a good building block for Swan Racing.”

In the first day of testing in Daytona, Michael Waltrip kept is owner’s hat on, working with Michael Waltrip Racing and not Swan Racing.

Mayfield Calls Out to Brain France on MRN Radio Show

AR-905189983What was Jeremy Mayfield thinking? That’s the question many are asking today after Mayfield called into a Motor Racing Network, MRN radio show on Tuesday to confront NASCAR CEO Brain France, a guest on the show NASCAR Live, about coming back to NASCAR to race.

Jeremy Mayfield has had a very troubled and turbulent ride since being banned from NASCAR in 2009 for a violation of the sport’s substance abuse policy. Mayfield has insisted that that the circumstances surrounding his banishment have been unwarranted and unfounded from day one. Mayfield has fought NASCAR to the point of self-ruin.

“I believe that the combination of a prescribed medicine and an over the counter medicine reacted together and resulted in a positive drug test,” said in 2009 after being suspended. “My Doctor and I are working with both NASCAR consultant Dr. David Black and NASCAR to resolve this matter.”

Black disputed Mayfield’s claims, stating, “What we have is a clear violation of policy. In my many years of experience, I have never seen a violation like this due to the combination of over-the-counter or prescription products.” Owing to NASCAR policy, Dr. Black refused to specify the substance for which Mayfield tested positive, instead saying it was “a drug of concern.”

That drug turned out to be methamphetamine. As a result, Mayfield and NASCAR became embroiled in a court battle that involved injunctions and law suits by Mayfield against NASCAR, ultimately ending in Mayfield being ruined and facing the foreclosure of his home and a total loss of his assists in part from owing tens of thousands in back taxes. Not to mention that mayfield has not raced in a stock car since 2009.

News from the Mayfield front had become sparse as of late, the matter seemingly closed, until Tuesday.

Mayfield called in to the MRN radio show, and confronted Brain France, asking to be allowed to race again in NASCAR.

“I thought I would just call in and see how you guys were doing, Brian, Eli,” Mayfield said. “Haven’t been around much to talk to you guys lately, and just wanted to ask Brian if he’s willing to accept the fact I’d like to come back racing and if we could sit down and talk about it and figure out what we need to do to make that work.”

After a short pause, France responded, sounding a little surprised yet well prepared.

“Well, Jeremy, you know the path back for you – it’s the path back for anybody,” he said. “I’ve always hoped you would choose the right path and not litigation and a bunch of other things, but that’s up to you and you have a welcome mat out anytime you want.

“There’s a stated process that AJ Allmendinger just went through and we welcomed him back, and it’s terrific. That’s up to you.”

“OK, well, I appreciate that,” Mayfield said. “I didn’t mean to bother you on the show, but it’s the only way I could get ahold of you and I figured it would be a great opportunity to do that.”

Mayfield then quickly ended the phone call.

AJ Allmendinger did in fact make a come back to NASCAR after becoming the first Cup Series driver to be suspended indefinitely for a substance abuse policy violation. After a few months in NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program, Allmendinger was re-instated within NASCAR and finished the 2012 season driving in races for James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.

The possibility and outlook of Jeremy Mayfield also completing the Road to Recovery Program is in high question. Many feel like he is a lost cause as a driver. Even with all the evidence saying otherwise, Mayfield continues to insist that he is not addicted to drugs and does not abuse them.

Perhaps Tuesday’s call was an effort to begin that process. Perhaps Mayfield is ready to face his demons, and make his way back to the drivers’s seat.

It is promising to see that after all the accusations, name calling, and hard feeling, NASCAR’s Brain France is still leaving the door open for Mayfield to make a return.

It remains to be seen if Mayfield will walk throughout that open door.