Preseason Thunder roars: Sprint Cup testing starts today at Daytona

Sprint Cup cars draft together during the Goodyear tire test Dec. 15-16
at Daytona International Speedway on the track's new surface.
For the first time in three years, the thunder is back in NASCAR's Preseason Thunder. With the repaving of Daytona International Speedway finishing up in December, NASCAR scheduled an open test Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 20-22, on the 2.5-mile superspeedway's new surface. The test marks the first time the roar of engines will be fired at a NASCAR-sanctioned track during the month of January since 2008. The following year, NASCAR banned testing at its tracks, which meant the absence of the familiar hum after the start of the new year.

Nearly 40 Sprint Cup teams will participate in the Daytona test starting today, and about half will take their first laps on the new asphalt. About 18 teams got a headstart last month when Goodyear held a two-day tire test to determine the tire compound to be used for the Daytona 500. The repave won raves from the drivers who participated.

Daytona's surface isn't the only change teams will be monitoring at the test. For 2011, the Sprint Cup racecars will feature a new lower, smaller nose. The front valance and splitter combination will lose the braces that have been part of the model's design since it debuted in 2007. The new noses will allow the four manufacturers - Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge and Toyota - to inject some brand identity back into the Cup cars.

The test could also give teams a chance to work with Sunoco Green E15, the new official fuel of NASCAR. E15 is a 15 percent corn-based ethanol blend. Some teams tested with the new fuel mixture at the Goodyear test, so it's likely E15 will be another variable added to the three-day test.

On Friday at noon, NASCAR President Mike Helton and Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton will present a "competition update," during which they will address possible changes to the sport. Helton and Pemberton are expected to announce the new one championship rule, which was uncovered when drivers were asked to mark a box on their license forms declaring which of the top three series they want to earn driver points. They may also discuss changes to the points system, after an AP story reported earlier this week that NASCAR was looking at doing away with the current system in favor of a simpler one.

If you can't make it to the track yourself to catch all the action at Daytona, don't worry - SPEED has got you covered. The TV network and its companion website will present 23 hours of testing today through Saturday. Here is the schedule (all times in Eastern Standard Time):

Thursday, Jan. 20:
9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (
1 p.m. - 5 p.m. (
5 p.m. - 7 p.m. (same-day delay) (SPEED)

Friday, Jan. 21:
9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. (SPEED)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m. (

Saturday, Jan. 22:
9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. – (SPEED)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m. – (

Click here to stream the Daytona testing

The following is a roster of drivers and teams participating in the three-day test at Daytona (list is subject to change):

00 David Reutimann, MWR
1 Jamie McMurray, EGR
2 Brad Keselowski, Penske
4 Kasey Kahne, Red Bull
5 Mark Martin, Hendrick
6 David Ragan, Roush Fenway
9 Marcos Ambrose, RPM
11 Denny Hamlin, JGR
13 Casey Mears, Germain
14 Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas
16 Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway
17 Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway
18 Kyle Busch, JGR
20 Joey Logano, JGR
21 Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers
22 Kurt Busch, Penske
24 Jeff Gordon, Hendrick
27 Paul Menard, RCR
29 Kevin Harvick, RCR
31 Jeff Burton, RCR
33 Clint Bowyer, RCR
36 Dave Blaney, Tommy Baldwin Racing
39 Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas
42 Juan Pablo Montoya, EGR
43 AJ Allmendinger, RPM
46 J.J. Yeley, Whitney Racing
48 Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick
56 Martin Truex Jr., MWR
60 Todd Bodine, Germain
64 Larry Gunselman, Max Q Motorsports
66 Michael McDowell, HP Racing
77 Steve Wallace, RWR
78 Regan Smith, Furniture Row
83 Brian Vickers, Red Bull
88 Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick
99 Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway
Preseason Thunder roars: Sprint Cup testing starts today at Daytona Preseason Thunder roars: Sprint Cup testing starts today at Daytona Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Thursday, January 20, 2011 Rating: 5