The Frontstretch: Down in Daytona: Toyotas Overshadow Junior/Hendrick, Dominate Single-Car Runs In Opening Day of Session 2 by Mike Lovecchio -- Tuesday January 15, 2008

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Editor’s Note: Mike Lovecchio will be covering testing news and information in a variety of ways for us this January at Daytona. To read his reports from earlier in the week, be sure to click the links below:

Cup Testing, Session One, Day One
Cup Testing, Session One, Day Two
Cup Testing, Session One, Day Three
Truck Testing, Day One
Truck Testing, Day Two
Truck Testing, Day Three

Ever since the announcement was made, NASCAR fans everywhere have waited to see Dale Earnhardt, Jr. take his brand new Hendrick Motorsports ride to the track. After a tease last week – when Junior showed up at Preseason Thunder testing in Daytona one week early to cheer on new teammates Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Casey Mears – anticipation was at a fever pitch.

Well, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver didn’t disappoint; but neither did a manufacturer who looks well on their way to avoiding a sophomore slump, surprising once again as the second session of Daytona testing got underway for the Sprint Cup Series.

The No. 88 driven by Junior finally took to the Speedway Monday morning, and – just like his teammates last week – was quick off the truck. In fact, Earnhardt was second fastest in both sessions; however, it was a pair of Toyotas that had a stranglehold on the leaderboard when Day 1 was all said and done.

Perhaps it was the addition of Joe Gibbs Racing to the stable – or perhaps it was a much-needed offseason – but the entire fleet of Camrys made their presence felt in both the AM and PM sessions. Dale Jarrett came out strong, picking up the fastest speed in a morning session that had Toyotas holding down 8 of the top 10 times. However, the PM session was even more impressive for the manufacturer, with 11 of the top 13 speeds belonging to Toyota. Dave Blaney was quickest during those runs, clocking in with the fastest single-car lap since testing began – 185.445 miles per hour.

Cooler weather and notes taken from the first Sprint Cup session seemed to play in favor of the second group of cars. Monday featured only single-car runs, but by the afternoon session, 9 cars had bested Jimmie Johnson’s lap of 184.763 miles an hour last week. Speeds should only continue to increase tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see by just how much as drafting practice returns to Daytona.

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Hot

Hendrick Motorsports: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. picked up where his teammates left off last week — near the top of the charts. Second in both sessions, he was calm, cool, and collected while handling the media horde following his every move.
Toyota: Fastest in each of the drafting sessions last week, their cars composed 11 of the Top 13 in single-car runs Monday. Seeing as three of those cars – Michael Waltrip’s No. 55, Dale Jarrett’s No. 44, and Brian Vickers’ No. 83 – will likely have to make the field on speed, that’s very good news.
Dario Franchitti: One week after rookie Jacques Villeneuve had an impressive test, fellow open-wheeler turned stock car newbie Franchitti tried to best his performance. Third in the AM session, he was by far the fastest Dodge on the day.

Not

Ford: The top Ford was 14th fastest in both sessions Monday, as unsponsored David Gilliland pushed up the charts in his No. 38 Yates Racing Ford. Neither of Roush Fenway Racing’s two drivers here – Jamie McMurray and David Ragan – were able to crack the Top 20.

Quotables

“Over Christmas, I went to (brother) Ward's house and his Daytona 500 trophy was in his house there. You know, I don't know what it was about it, but I saw that trophy and it was like it was the first I had ever seen it. My son was down there – he's seven – and I said, ‘You know what that is?' He's like, ‘Yeah, that's the Daytona 500 trophy.' It was pretty special seeing that trophy.” – Jeff Burton, on what winning the Daytona 500 would mean to him.

“I don't think you could build any more hype. And then, to have our biggest race fall first falls right into all the hype from all the race teams. I don't know that you could build it up any more. I don't know that you could put it last and have the same prestige and hype that comes around this race.”
- Defending 500 champion Kevin Harvick, on whether on not the 500 should be run at the beginning or the end of the year.

Testing Summary – Day 1

Top 3 Speeds – AM session
Single Car Runs

Dale Jarrett (No. 44) — 184.987 MPH
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (No. 88) — 184.646
Dario Franchitti (No. 40) — 184.305

Top 3 Speeds – PM session
Single Car Runs

Dave Blaney (No. 22) — 185.445 MPH
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (No. 88) — 185.426
Brian Vickers (No. 83) — 185.307

Editor's Note : The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close - which means it's time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, the Frontstretch staff are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, providing insight into the seasons of anyone from A.J. Allmendinger to J.J. Yeley. Want to know how your favorite driver fared? Check out this link to find out, and be sure to keep coming in every weekday this offseason for even more original content by the Frontstretch!

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum
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Ghost of Curtis Turner
01/15/2008 08:48 AM
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Toyota is dominating?? Who Cares?? You people still don’t realize this is a testing session, you can run anything under the hood, do any thing you want to the front shocks with out repercussions from NASCAR. The real proof will be in Febuary when all the teams come back to race with the NASCAR Mandates and full inspections. Testing Sesions are just that tests, nothing more nothing less.
Also is there any truth to the rumor that Chevy is bring suit against JGR and Toyota for stealing the Chevey Engine / Head package????

Larry Burton
01/15/2008 04:15 PM
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Exactly as I predicted. Toyota didn’t get into Nascar to play second fiddle to any car. It won’t be long before they dominate unless Nascar Throttles them back. They bought one of the biggest teams in racing (Gibbs) and will continue to buy their way to drivers and teams to dominate the sport. Want it be nice when Nascar is dominated by a Japanese Company? As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, when Nascar gets to be the Toyota IROC Series is the day I dump NASCAR and King Brian altogether!

afcman
01/16/2008 05:36 PM
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Calm down. Don’t worry. Nascar will NEVER allow Toyota to dominate like Chevy. It’s ok for other makes to win a few. But Chevy is the car of Hendrick (and Jr.). The money makers.

Watch for Nascar to make changes if Toyota wins more than chevy.

Larry Burton
01/19/2008 03:33 PM
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The only thing Toyota was missing was the teams and drivers. If Gordon and Johnson had been in Toyotas last year they would have won just as many races or more. With Tony Steward and Kyle Busch you will see the wins come this year. Nascar tested the cars for horsepower last March after Atlanta and Toyota of Dale Garrett was first. Jimmy Johnson was third or fourth down on the horsepower chart. This makes it clear you not only have to have horsepower but the driver and team to go with it. That’s what Toyotas got now.

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