Looking past Daytona: NASCAR’s Super Bowl begins long haul

Chad Knaus, crew chief for reigning Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, is among those already preparing for a busy season.

Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images

We are about a month away from our traveling circus we lovingly call the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series checking into Daytona for the start of Speedweeks down there and the 2014 season. There were some teams that had their actual Daytona 500 car at the test last week, while others did not.

For the teams that had their 500 car in Daytona, like Austin Dillon for example, they simply will bring that car back to the shop and massage on it. For the teams that didn’t bring their 500 car, like Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., their 500 car is being built as we speak. Their plan was to get last week behind them, see if there are any rule tweaks or changes coming down the pike from NASCAR and then apply it all to a brand new piece.

Photos! NASCAR preseason testing at Daytona

Obviously, there still will be a lot of focus put on the Daytona 500 by the teams, because not only is it our first race, but obviously it is our biggest race. You hear us compare it to the Super Bowl. It’s simply that big to our sport. With that said, you will see a gradual change in focus in the coming weeks to having the cars prepared and ready for the races that follow Daytona.

Remember that following Daytona, we go right out West for two weeks, come back to Bristol, Tenn., and then go back to California to Auto Club Speedway. That’s the meat and potatoes of our schedule, and teams want to get started on the right foot. Also remember that the biggest majority of the rule changes NASCAR handed down are for those non-restrictor plate tracks. So, look for a lot of testing to be going on all over the country by these teams.

So while the single focus right now is on the first and biggest race of our season — the Daytona 500 live on FOX on Feb. 23 — there will be a gradual shift and a lot of work geared toward the races that come after.