DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After rain showers washed out Thursday’s Preseason Thunder testing, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were finally able to get on track Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
Shortly before 1 p.m., cars began making testing runs around the 2.5-mile tri-oval in preparation for the 56th annual Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 23, NASCAR’s prestigious season-opening event.
The majority of Friday’s testing, which concluded under the lights at 9 p.m., featured single-car runs. In the final hour, select drivers did participate in some drafting.
Fastest of the test was Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who posted a top speed of 195.109 mph in the No. 3 Chevrolet. Rounding out the top five were Brian Scott (194.582), Matt Crafton (194.342), Aric Almirola (193.828) and Kyle Larson (193.411).
The rain delay gave drivers plenty of time to meet with the media and discuss the upcoming NASCAR season and the Daytona 500.
Jimmie Johnson, six-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is gunning for back-to-back victories in the Daytona 500. Last year at Daytona, he became the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
“There is no other sensation when you come into a race track like there is here,” Johnson said. “Driving through the tunnel and popping out in Turn 4 and looking around and realizing you’re here is always a great way to start the season.”
Tony Stewart was in attendance for the test, but he wasn’t behind the wheel of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet. Stewart, who is still recovering from injuries suffered in a sprint car accident back in August, had Mark Martin shaking down his car.
Stewart plans on making his return to competition in The Sprint Unlimited on Saturday Feb. 15.
He is also still searching for that first Daytona 500 victory.
“February here is high on that bucket list,” said Stewart, who is winless in the Daytona 500 in 14 starts. “We haven't won here yet. We've won here, just not on the right day. The second Sunday would be nice. That's all that's on the bucket list right now.”
Stewart expects to be cleared by doctors to return to the track on Feb. 14, the day before The Sprint Unlimited.
NASCAR Nationwide Series testing will take center stage at DIS on Saturday and Sunday as teams prepare for the season-opening DRIVE4COPD 300 on Saturday, Feb. 22. Among the drivers expected to participate in the two-day session are Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne.