Dillon Tops Daytona Test

Austin Dillon

Austin Dillon topped the field in testing with a lap of 195.109 mph Friday at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

Testing Speeds

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The No. 3 car was No. 1 Friday during Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway.

Austin Dillon, who is bringing the No. 3 car back to the Sprint Cup Series for the first time since 2001, posted the fastest speed in more than eight hours of testing Friday.

Dillon’s top lap was 195.109 mph. Richard Childress Racing teammate Brian Scott was next at 194.582 mph. Both were in single-car runs. They were followed by Aric Almirola (193.828 mph) and Kyle Larson (193.411). They posted their fastest laps in a draft. Casey Mears (193.353) was fifth fastest in a single-car run.

Dillon said he’ll bring his car back for the Daytona 500 next month.

“It was a good start for us,’’ he said. “It’s definitely a morale booster when you can come and can have some speed. Daytona will give you that if you’ve got good cars. We’re ready to go, especially for Daytona.’’

Kasey Kahne ran the most laps at 106. Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was next, running 95 laps.

Forty cars took part in testing. Since Thursday’s session was rained out, most teams elected for single-car runs Friday. There was a brief draft in the final hour of testing that had Almirola, Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Cole Whitt and Alex Bowman running in a pack.

Larson was hoping to draft more but with so many teams electing to skip that, it left him little time to run with other cars.

“I still learned a little bit,’’ Larson said. “Stalling people out is really big, sidedrafting them, trying to get air on their spoilers is really big to slow a run down. I learned that a little bit.

“I learned a little watching Dale Jr. It was good to sit behind him for most all of that and see what he did a little bit.’’

Almirola enjoyed running around cars even for a few laps.

“The biggest thing we got was a little bit of excitement,’’ he said. “It gets so monotonous to go out there and run two laps or three laps by yourself. We got to go out and have a little fun. We’ve got a good bit of work to do before we come back for the Daytona 500 but I feel real good about our group of guys.’’

Greg Biffle was the first driver on the track when officials opened it at 12:45 p.m. - more than three hours later than intended because of morning rain. Since Thursday’s session was washed out along with Friday morning, NASCAR extended the test to 9 p.m. ET.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, said he received many suggestions from teams on what should be done with the schedule.

“As you can only imagine when there is an opportunity to express your opinion to do something different than we have organized, lobbying does come into play,’’ he said. “We’ve heard everywhere from teams that need a half a day to teams that need a day and a half to teams that want to go to Talladega, teams that want to come back here next week and there were some that don’t even want to be here today.’’

One person who wasn’t at the test was Paul Menard even though his team was with Matt Crafton. Menard, though, had a valid excuse.

“Paul called me the other day,’’ Crafton said. “Paul had a waterline break in his house. He thought he’d better get that cleaned up instead of come down here.’’

This marked the first time Crafton had been in a Cup car at Daytona. He’ll return Monday and Tuesday when the Camping World Truck Series test.

Nationwide teams test Saturday and Sunday. Test sessions run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET with a lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. 

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