NASCAR Officials Ready for Season

NASCAR

Pemberton, Helton and Darby addressed the media today. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona has NASCAR anxious to start the 2012 season off on a high note.

This week’s three-day test at Daytona International Speedway is just the first in a number of events that will lead the sport into the brand new season.

“We've got a lot of things in January; the test this week, Hall of Fame next weekend, the acceleration weekend that includes a preview on Saturday, the 50th running of the Rolex 24 here in a couple of weeks that has a tremendous amount of international interest to it as well as from all forms of motorsports,” said NASCAR president Mike Helton during Friday’s test session at Daytona. “And then you start back over with the Daytona -- you start the '12 season with the Daytona 500 and all the different changes and the personality, the chemistry changes between crew chiefs and drivers and drivers and owners and so forth and so on.

“So it's always a fun part of the year to sit back and reflect a bit but also start going to school on all the new things that are getting ready to unfold.”

There have been a myriad of rule changes for teams as they test at Daytona this week in anticipation of NASCAR’s return for Speedweeks in February. As NASCAR officials continue to tweak the rule packages so far the sanctioning body is pleased with what’s taken place on track.

“The outcome, the proof in the pudding of the outcome will be the Daytona 500,” Helton said. “But we've not seen anything that we dislike, but we know there's other things that we'd like to see more of. I think the progress of the weekend -- we're kind of in the middle of it right now.

“I think the progress of the weekend is going in the right direction, but the biggest thing is I think from our perspective is the level of interest in being sure that we all get the racing right.”

Speeds have risen over the course of the first two days in the test to just past 200 mph. A larger restrictor plate and smaller spoiler are adding to that speed as is the continued tandem drafting that has gone during the test.

But despite the increase in speeds NASCAR officials are comfortable with the laps being turned at Daytona.

“We've been at -- traditionally at Daytona and Talladega both we've been at 202, 203 during the race probably for the last four plate races,” said Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby. “When you look at it that way, what is it, a mile an hour that's quicker? At the same time, we constantly look to test and upgrade liftoff speeds and things like that. If you've been in the garage, I think a lot of you have noticed the new fin down the back window that people are using. It's there for a purpose. It's there to increase that liftoff speed.

“204 is exciting. I don't think it's nervous yet. So we're okay.”

NASCAR has encouraged drivers to draft in larger packs as the test continues to get an idea of what speeds will be recorded in those bigger-sized groups. Darby believes that will be the key in determining what package will be in place rules-wise when February rolls around and Speedweeks begins.

“The one snapshot we haven't been able to capture yet, though, is what does 10 or 15 or 20 cars in an old-school style draft look like, what kind of speeds do they generate, what type of RPMs do the engines run at, so on and so forth,” he said. “That's something that we need. It's a piece of the master equation, if you will, as we close in on a package to come back to Speedweeks with.”

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