With Preseason Thunder testing winding down, the first of two Nationwide Series sessions began Friday at Daytona International Speedway under damp and cloudy skies. The morning session was delayed by 45 minutes, but as soon as the cars hit the track for their first single-car runs of the year, it was Johnny Sauter who shot to the top of the charts after spending a year in the Sprint Cup Series.
Like the first day of testing, teams are racing the weather with rain in the forecast each of the next two days. While the cars are on the track, however, a mix of past champions and phenoms are trying to get as much of their cars before Speedweeks roles around in February.
Notes From Day 1 of Nationwide Testing
Changes at JR Motorsports
As a result of Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s move to Hendrick Motorsports on the Sprint Cup side, JR Motorsports has merged with Hendrick and the No. 5 team which will feature Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Boris Said in the Nationwide Series. Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 88 U.S. Navy car for JRM, looked strong on the opening day of testing coming in fourth-fastest in the AM session and 10th-fastest in the PM session.
The Trifecta for Kyle Busch
Some drivers can’t wait to get out of Daytona – not Kyle Busch. Busch is testing the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this week and posted the fastest time of Day 1 with a lap of 182.556 mph in the PM session. This is the third time Busch has been at the Speedway this month after already testing for Joe Gibbs in the Sprint Cup session and for Billy Ballew Motorsports last week in the truck series.
New Team for Kevin Harvick
Harvick won two championships and the season-opening race last year for Richard Childress Racing, but this year will be driving for his own team, Kevin Harvick Inc. Tony Stewart won the first spring Daytona races in both 2005 and 2006 for KHI.
Young Drivers/Past Champions
A fresh crop of up-and-coming superstars are at Daytona this week including: Landon Cassill for HMS, Bryan Clauson for Chip Ganassi Racing and Brad Coleman, among others. Cassill will be sharing the wheel of the No. 5 along with David Green, one of three past champions testing in session one. Two-time champion Harvick and defending champion Carl Edwards are the others.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
There is a 30% chance of thunderstorms Saturday and more rain is expected early on Sunday as a cold front comes through. The temperature is expected to drop by as much as 15 degrees between Saturday and Sunday.