What have we learned at Daytona testing?

January, 20, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- What we have learned from testing at Daytona International Speedway so far:

• There's a lot of stand-around time for drivers and crew members because there's little they can actually do to the cars on the new surface. "This is a much more laid-back test session than what it would be with the old surface for the drivers," Denny Hamlin said. "It's probably going to be a little easier for the crew chiefs as well, because they don't have to deal with the balance of handling versus speed.

"You can turn this car around backwards, and I'm going to say it drove the same as it did the last run."

• The Goodyear tires are a combination of what NASCAR will use at Las Vegas and Talladega. They don't wear as fast, as usually is the case on new surfaces, meaning we'll see a lot more no-tire and two-tire stops in the Daytona 500 than normal.

• If you like three-, four- and maybe five-wide racing, this is the place to be. "I'm sure somebody will try it at some point," Martin Truex Jr. said of five-wide. "It comes down to how many cars you can fit into that space. That's how many we're going to try to get in there."

• Only 34 teams are here practicing, including some that don't plan to run the entire season, which makes you wonder whether it'll be tough to field 43 cars in every race this season.

• Five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson doesn't care whether NASCAR goes to the 43-1 point system or stays with the old system. "I could care less because I feel confident that my team will be able to win championships under any set of circumstances."

• Carl Edwards and Hamlin like the 43-1 system because it simplifies the math they have to do in their head. But don't they have engineers who do all the math for them anyway? And how hard really was the old system to keep up with? "Are we going to confuse everyone even more and shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit?" Johnson asked. "I don't know."

• Kurt Busch looks as much like Ronald McDonald as Kevin Harvick did in that yellow Shell firesuit. "When everybody stops calling me Kevin, we'll be settled in," Busch said.

• Defending Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray can drive as fast as he wants on the track, but his wife won't let him text in the car with their new baby aboard. He learned that recently when she told him she'd "kill" him if he did.

• Fans and drivers seem to like the new nose that has buried the splitter. "It looks a lot more like the cars we drive on the street, and that's good," Edwards said.

• Harvick shows no intention of paying me for the dry-cleaning bill after he filled my black suit with tire fiber doing a burnout on the Las Vegas Strip during banquet week.

• ESPN colleague Marty Smith is getting a little bit too cozy with the chunk of old asphalt from Daytona that he has to carry with him each time he does a "SportsCenter" hit. He's calling it his pet rock. Maybe we should have fans vote on a real name for it.

Have at it, boys and girls.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer
David Newton is an NFL reporter at ESPN and covers the Carolina Panthers. Newton began covering Carolina in 1995 and came to ESPN in 2006 as a NASCAR reporter before joining NFL Nation in 2013. You can follow Newton on Twitter at @DNewtonespn.


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