DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, led the 31-car field during Thursday morning’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session at Daytona International Speedway. Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates joined other Cup teams for both test sessions at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in anticipation of the 2012 Daytona Speedweeks and the 54th running of the Daytona 500 in February.
The three-day Preseason Thunder testing kicked off Thursday, Jan. 12 at Daytona International Speedway.
During the first segment, Gordon posted the fastest lap, circling the 2.5-mile superspeedway in 46.687 seconds at roughly 192.773 mph. That’s more than 6.683 mph faster than the time Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed to win the 2011 pole position.
Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, scored the fastest lap among his teammates during the second session. He toured Daytona in 44.79 seconds at roughly 200.920 mph, a 14.831 mph increase from his pole-winning effort in 2011.
For Earnhardt, NASCAR’s 2012 rule changes meant a successful test session and somewhat of a return to the way the cars used to handle on the superspeedways. This year, the cars will employ electronic fuel injection, rather than use a carburetor, among other changes.
“The cars are really, really slow by themselves the last couple years at Daytona and Talladega (Ala.). Qualifying in the mid-180 range is just way too slow,” Earnhardt said. “You know, when I was growing up as a kid, hearing the numbers that guys were trying to put up and how fast they would go, 210 (mph) here and 214 (mph) at Talladega when (Bill) Elliott was doing that in '85, maybe it was '84. But just back then those kind of numbers, man, that was awesome stuff to read about, and it gets you really excited. So going 30 miles an hour slower than that doesn't sound like a lot of fun, and it's not. So I'm glad that they opened up the cars a little bit, took a little plate away, took a little spoiler away and gave us a bigger plate.”
Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne also recorded lap times inside the top 10 on Thursday. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, ran as high as sixth during the second segment on the strength of a 44.795 second lap time.
Kahne drove his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet to record a top-eight speed of 199.791 mph.For Kahne, the day was as much about working with his new teammates as it was testing the new NASCAR applications.
“It's awesome to be able to talk with Jimmie and Dale and Jeff about racing and driving and things like that, and then just all the people that they have there,” Kahne said. “I don't know, it's just been kind of a different feeling more than anything than what I've had before at other race teams. It's a great opportunity, and I want to take full advantage of it.”
Fans can tune in to SPEED to watch all the action unfold during NASCAR Sprint Cup preseason testing. The morning sessions air on SPEEDTV.com, and the afternoon ones will be televised on SPEED. Click here for a full schedule.