There are some teams that have already essentially run the Daytona 500 — that would be the distance to transport backup cars between most of the North Carolina-based race shops and Daytona International Speedway.
Since the first practice of Speedweeks last Friday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Generation 6 junkyards have been piling up. Certainly, last Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited fueled the assortment of mangled metal and prompted some teams’ fabrication shops to work overtime.
“Everything is fixable,” Carl Edwards crew chief Jimmy Fennig said with a laugh.
Well almost everything. Here’s the part where you’ll need a score card. Edwards’ chassis No. 797 has been through the ringer and back. It was wrecked during Preseason Thunder testing. The chassis returned as the backup when the primary for the Sprint Unlimited car was wrecked during practice. When the primary for the Daytona 500 was wrecked in practice for qualifying, No. 797 was pulled out again. But when Edwards “was at the wrong place at the wrong time” in the first Duel on Thursday, Denny Hamlin nailed both the No. 99 and the car of Trevor Bayne, who had led 37 laps of the race before he ended up on the wrecker.
“It’s been a good week,” Fennig said with a straight face. “It’s been fun, entertaining.”
And what has he learned about his new driver?
“He wrecks a lot,” Fennig said. “I’m kidding. None of this has been his fault. I’ve got to give the guys back at the shop and here at the track a lot of credit for busting their ass. They’ve all kept a positive attitude through all of it.”
Edwards’ primary car for the Unlimited has been repaired at Roush Fenway Racing’s Concord, NC-shop and was returned Friday morning to the track. Edwards will use the car as his backcar should anything happen in Happy Hour practice on Saturday. For now, Fennig expects Edwards to draft to make sure his current primary is stable for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (Noon ET on FOX).
Bayne, who won the 2011 Daytona 500, has a similar strategy. Although the car he posted the third-fastest time with during qualifying is now back on the transporter, Bayne will shake down his 500 car on Saturday to make sure the handling is right after running just four laps on Friday.
“We’ll run some practice tomorrow just to get the splitter heights right,” Bayne said. “Earlier today we just wanted to shake it down and make sure there were no leaks or anything completely wrong with it, but it seemed to be fast. It’s hard to tell by yourself, but they said it’s a brand-new car that’s never been on the track and it went out and picked right up, so I think we’ll be fine.”
As for a backup to the backup, the Wood Brothers had fabricators that painted that car back in North Carolina on Friday night.
Kurt Busch’s misfortune came earlier in Speedweeks, first in Unlimited practice when Matt Kenseth lost control of his car and again in the event when Hamlin triggered the first of two wrecks in six days. Before the Duel, Furniture Row Racing was prepared to wrap the third No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevy SS as a possible backup, but the team was able to fix the front clip and right side of the Unlimited primary car and continue on.
Ryan Newman’s wrecks came on Wednesday — in first practice — and again in the Duel. The team was able to make repairs and return for second practice on Wednesday. On Thursday, the team wasn’t so lucky. The damaged Newman sustained in the Duel prompted the car to pull out a backup (chassis 39-606). The chassis last raced at Talladega in October and was Newman’s primary superspeedway car throughout competition last year. Newman used it in Preseason Thunder last month.
For as many of Hamlin’s competitors’ cars that he sent back to the garage, the No. 11 Toyotas have been left pretty much intact. Crew chief Darian Grubb said the team replaced the left side of the nose on his Daytona 500 car from the damage in the Duel. As for the Unlimited car, that one is back at Joe Gibbs Racing in Huntersville, NC, receiving a makeover — but Grubb says it’s still drivable.
If Edwards can make it through the Daytona 500 accident-free, it will be the first race he’s completed during Speedweeks.
“We started perfectly last year,” Edwards said. “We won the pole and everything was going smoothly and it was a terrible year. Hopefully, this is a sign that this will be a great year. This is the worst Speedweeks start I have ever had. I don’t think I have crashed this many race cars in two years.”
Falling to pieces
After two right-side windows went flying out of cars in the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duel, NASCAR offered suggestions for reinforcements for the tracks on the car that hold the Lexan pieces.
Edwards’ window went flying in the closing laps of the Unlimited. NASCAR black-flagged Edwards, who finished 12th.
Martin Truex Jr. lost his window during the first Duel. Truex finished sixth but was posted 19th — the last car on the lead lap due to the infraction. Truex tweeted about the mishap, “These cars create a lot of turbulence in the draft. It broke the window track where the side window clips are attached.”
Crew chief Tony Gibson experienced issues with Danica Patrick’s car earlier in Speedweeks. He says the larger windows “with the wind bumping on it” are contributing to the issue.
“NASCAR is doing a good job of letting us work on that as far as bracing with lips to hold it in,” Gibson said. “We’ve cracked our window track. I think everyone in the garage has cracked their window track. But NASCAR has gone to the teams and saw what they wanted to do to try to keep that from happening.
“(NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John) Darby actually came by our car this morning to see how it held up in the 150s and let us do some other things to stiffen it up. I think if we weren’t able to fix it, you would see more windows blow out on Sunday. But hopefully, we got it fixed.”
4: Drivers participated in both Sprint Cup practices on Friday. Kasey Kahne ran the most laps (37) and posted the top best 10-lap average (195.305 mph).
6: Career poles for Bayne in 86 Nationwide Series starts. He will start on the pole position for the Drive4COPD300.
28: Laps practiced by Tony Stewart who posted the fastest circuit of the day – 197.131 mph.
Polesitter Patrick on securing her position for Sunday after laying back in the Duel and surviving Friday’s practice: "I finally said in the hauler after we were done ‘We are definitely, definitely, definitely starting on the front row for the 500 now because we are done."