Posted on: January 22, 2011 5:09 pm

Daytona testing recap - day three

Posted By Pete Pistone

CONCORD, N.C. - The biggest news to come from the final day of Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona was speed. The lap times have steadily been creeping up as the three day session wore on and on Saturday Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch hooked up in a two car draft to tickle the 198 mph mark.

Whether or not that's enough to make NASCAR officials hand out smaller restrictor plates when teams return for "Speedweeks" next month remains to be seen but it appears the sanctioning body is still comfortable with the speeds.

Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, David Reutimann and Clint Bowyer were among the names who skipped out of Saturday's final day of testing. Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman - who hooked up in a two-car draft to top 197 mph - left after the morning session.

The biggest news to come out of Saturday's time at "The World Center of Racing" was the possibility NASCAR may set qualifying for the coming season based on practice times. Rather than draw randomly for position as has been the policy in the past, the final practice before time trials would set the order for the qualifying round. It's a practice that the Camping World Truck Series employed last year and may at least give a little boost of interest to Cup qualifying if put into play in 2011.

All teams will head out of Daytona tonight and head back to the Charlotte hub, where I have set up shop for the next few days. Tonight the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) will honor Waddell Wilson, Dale Jarrett and former Charlotte Observer NASCAR reporter Tom Higgins. Tomorrow is a full day of meetings and an awards dinner Sunday night before the 2011 NASCAR Preseason Media Tour kicks off on Monday.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 22, 2011 10:20 am

Daytona testing update - day three

Posted By Pete Pistone

The final day of Daytona's Preseason Thunder test session is in full swing at "The World Center of Racing" but it's a bit of a ghost town compared to the first two days of participation.

Twenty five cars are on track down from the 34 that took times on Friday. Some of the sport's bigger names like Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. packed up after yesterday's session although Nationwide Series driver Josh Wise is turning laps in Junior's No. 88 entry.

The focus of NASCAR will now shift to Charlotte beginning this weekend with the National Motorsports press Association Hall of Fame dinner which will honor legendary engine builder Waddell Wilson, legendary NASCAR reporter Tom Higgins and former Cup Series champion and current television analyst Dale Jarrett.

Tomorrow is a full day of activities for the NMPA with an awards dinner set for Sunday night. Then on Monday the annual NASCAR Pre-season Media Tour kicks off with about 200 journalists from around the world descending on Charlotte for a week's worth of visiting teams and previewing the season with drivers and owners. Wednesday night NASCAR CEO Brian France will give his annual "State of the Sport" presentation as part of the tour at which time it's expected NASCAR's decision on changing the points system and modifying the Chase will be unveiled.

I'm heading to O'Hare here in Chicago to fly down to Charlotte this afternoon and be there for all the news and activities over the next few days so you can keep up with it all right here on our CBSSports.com NASCAR blog. Full disclosure, I'll be indisposed beginning at 3 p.m. ET tomorrow watching my beloved Bears.

Will check back in when I hit the ground in Charlotte and give you a final update on what went down in Daytona today.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 21, 2011 6:08 pm

Daytona testing recap - day two

Posted By Pete Pistone

After a morning delay because of rain NASCAR's Preseason Thunder test session continued on Friday at Daytona International Speedway. Despite the overnight and morning rains washing away any rubber that was laid down on the track's new asphalt racing surface after Thursday's opening session, Friday's runs went off without incident and speeds were in the same territory as in day one of the test.

Single car runs were the order of the day again in the first session while several cars hooked up in two-car drafts during the afternoon session, which was extended to 6 p.m. ET because of the early rain. There were no large drafting groups however as drivers and crew chiefs again played things safe in anticipation of returning for "Speedweeks" activities in February.

"A few guys got antsy but for the most part you just don't want to go out there and take a chance at wrecking a good race car," said crew chief Slugger Labbe, who is calling the shots for Paul Menard as the duo moves from Richard Petty Motorsports to the Richard Childress Racing stable in 2011. "We've found some of what we were looking for when we came down here and overall I think we learned a lot yesterday and today without taking any chances."

Denny Hamlin turned the top speed on Friday courtesy of a two-car draft hook-up in the afternoon runs. Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing FedEx Toyota had a quick lap of 196.868 mph. Tony Stewart was next on the list followed by Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Burton.

Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne completed the top ten on Friday.

Several teams and drivers packed up after the second day of testing despite Saturday set as the final opportunity of the session. Earnhardt returned to Charlotte where he'll take part in sister Kelley's wedding on Saturday. Nationwide Series driver Josh Wise will put the No. 88 Chevrolet through its paces in Earnhardt's absence.

In all 34 cars took part in Friday's session with about half that expected to return on Saturday.
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 21, 2011 4:35 pm

Pastrana NASCAR debut set

Posted By Pete Pistone

The highly-anticipated NASCAR debut for motorcycle and off road star Travis Pastrana will reportedly come this July.

Pastrana will try his hand at big-time stock car racing when the NASCAR Nationwide Series visits Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly O'Reilly Raceway Park) in Indianapolis the last weekend of July.

The X-Games icon and action sports hero signed a deal with team owner Michael Waltrip last fall and will start approximately seven Nationwide Series events in 2011 as part of his foray into the sport. Pastrana also plans to make a limited number of NASCAR K&N Pro Series late model stock car starts and has tested one of the series cars in recent weeks.

Pastrana's Nationwide debut will come at the .625-mile Lucas Oil Raceway short track which will hold its annual NASCAR NWS and Camping World Truck Series on the days prior to the weekend's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 21, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 4:41 pm

Officials touch on competition changes for 2011

Posted By Pete Pistone

NASCAR president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton and Sprint Cup Series director John Darby addressed the media on Friday at Daytona with a sanctioning body competition update.

NASCAR's new policy enforcing drivers to declare for one series championship was confirmed and Sprint Cup drivers Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski are now officially out of contention for a Nationwide Series title in 2011. Helton said series sponsor Nationwide was counseled in the decision and discussion of grandfathering in Cup regulars who expressed interest in competing for this year's crown was considered. But in the end Helton said in the overall best interest of the sport beginning the new policy this season was best.

The thirty-minute session touched on a wide range of topics including:

The search for Darby's replacement, which is ongoing but progressing to the point that a new Sprint Cup Series director could be in place by mid-season.

Adjusting Rookie of the Year parameters in the Sprint Cup Series since no driver has declared intention of running the full schedule in pursuit of the honor.

The potential overhaul of the championship points system to a simpler method and distribution of point values. An announcement on this is expected during NASCAR CEO Brian France's "State of the Sport" address next Wednesday in Charlotte as part of the annual pre-season media tour. Helton did say the new system would be used across all three of NASCAR's top divisions.

The move to fuel injected engines will not take place for any points races this season.

More tracks - reportedly up to 24 events this season - will change from Friday to Saturday qualifying. Pemberton said those weekends would not be treated as impound races and teams would be allowed to work on cars following qualifying.

Standardized start times will be "tweaked" as the season progresses. Last year's 1-4-7:30 p.m. ET menu will most likely change in the second half of the year and speculation is Chase races will not go head to head with the start of NFL games come fall with NASCAR/ESPN opting for later green flags.

Speeds during the first day of the Daytona test - which reached 195 mph-plus during two car drafts on Thursday - are acceptable right now and at this point there are no plans to use a smaller restrictor plate when teams returns for "Speedweeks" in February.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 21, 2011 11:56 am

Front Row sets line-up

By Pete Pistone

Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland will return to Front Row Motorsports in 2011 with full Sprint Cup Series season planned for both drivers. The team will run a third entry in select events during the season.

Kvapil will pilot the No. 34 Long John's-sponsored Ford while Gilliland returns to the seat of the team's No. 38 Taco Bell Fusion.

While the team did not participate in this week's Preseason Thunder test session in Daytona owner Bill Jenkins plans to be back in force next month for "Speedweeks" activities.

Bill Henderson has been named crew chief for Kvapil's entry while veteran Peter Sospenzo returns to call the shots for Gilliland.

Roush-Yates engines will again power the Front Row stable.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 11:09 am

Daytona testing update - day two

Posted By Pete Pistone

Mother Nature has stepped in to put a damper on Friday's planned activities for Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway. After heavy rains swept through the area overnight, a thick overcast greeted competitors Friday morning that eventually grew into persistent rain and drizzle.

On track activities were expected to begin at 9 a.m. ET but have been put on hold indefinitely until the weather clears up and there is hope that will happen by early afternoon. Track and NASCAR officials have been discussing the possibility of running part of the planned test under the lights but with another night of driver autograph and fan sessions planned that schedule may be difficult to work out.

Drivers will meet the media on an accelerated schedule than originally planned and the 12 noon ET competition update with NASCAR presdient Mike Helton and vice president of competition Robin Pemberton is still on target, at which time the new policy of limiting a driver's eligibility to one championship will be made official.

We'll have periodic updates and news as it breaks from "The World Center of Racing" throughout the day. You can follow me as well on Twitter....twitter.com/ppistone.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 20, 2011 12:19 pm

Stewart addresses Australia run-in

Posted By Pete Pistone

Tony Stewart met with the media during Thursday's Preseason Thunder test session activities at Daytona International Speedway and commented on the altercation he was in with authorities last week while competing in a Sprint Cup Series event in Australia.

Despite reports to the contrary Stewart was not sporting a black eye during his media session and said the disagreement with a track operators stemmed from what he considered dangerous racing conditions.

According to Stewart the conversation "went a bit further than a normal dispute."

"I've always stood up for what I believe. I didn't think the conditions were safe to run. They felt different."

Asked if he would return to compete in Australia again next winter Stewart said he'd "Love to. Except for the last night we had an excellent time."

"I'm not the least bit proud of it. "I'm shamed of it," Stewart said of the ordeal.

Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman are both in Daytona taking part in the three-day test session.

Category: Auto Racing
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com