Testing helps team ramp up for season

BY Jeff Hammond • January 10, 2012

With NASCAR’s desire to break up the two-car tandems on the restrictor-plate tracks, the teams this week testing in Daytona sure have their hands full with proposed changes on the car. In addition to that, the switch to fuel injection is something we’ve never seen in our sport.

How is that going to work with the restrictor plates? Where is all that going to lead us to? That’s another big unknown and challenge these teams are facing. The other pressure is the teams have to get all these answers in only three days. So to me, it’s going to be really interesting to see how these teams approach it. Will their focus be strictly on single-car runs to get an idea of the fuel-injection deal? Is handling and speed going to be the main priority to try to be competitive when we come back in February for the 500?

Teams need to be there for these three days this week so as not to get behind. They also want to see what their competitors are doing. In addition to that, they want to have input on the decisions NASCAR is considering making. You need to be there to try to learn as much as you can in a short period of time. It’s only really critical when we get back to Daytona.

It’s a really good starting point for 2012. You get a chance to see where you are. You can find out if you have gained anything in the offseason. You can break in new personnel. You can try out new procedures without all the pressure that SpeedWeeks down there in February brings. Basically it also gives folks a chance to knock the rust off, assuming you can say anyone has any rust in such a short offseason that we have.

Another big area that some of these teams will be focused on is communication. There are teams, including reigning champion Tony Stewart, who have new crew chiefs. So the opportunity for the driver/crew chief vocabulary to be established is important as well during the three days in Daytona this week.

The competition today is so tight. You cannot be weak in a single area or you will find yourself already behind. So any opportunity to work on those areas must be taken advantage of. It’s even magnified if you have new people. Until you get to the track and begin interacting with your team or talking to each other on that radio, you really aren’t 100 percent sure of what you have.

SPEED is kicking things off with a bang. We will be there for the first lap on Thursday until the last lap on Saturday. All that, plus we will be covering everything in between. Myself, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and the whole gang will be there covering all the action.

Of course this gets everyone revved up as we head back to Daytona in February. I think this year's Daytona 500 will be very interesting as well as challenging. I always look forward to Daytona. It is just that special to me, whether it was when I was on the War Wagon making the calls or working with my NASCAR on FOX team also making the calls.

There is just nothing like going to Daytona in February each year. It’s the start of a brand-new season. It’s always special and from the owner, to the driver, to the crew chief, all the way down through the team, they can’t wait to get there.


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