Makes even up as GM test closes at Daytona By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2001) -- As General Motors' second and final day of pre-season Winston Cup testing wound down Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, the ...
Makes even up as GM test closes at Daytona
By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2001) -- As General Motors' second and final day of pre-season Winston Cup testing wound down Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, the unofficial cumulative speed sheet for the four days of manufacturer sponsored testing was sprinkled with Chevrolets and Pontiacs, but only two Fords in the top-10.
Steve Park continued the trend he established on GM's opening day, when his pair of No. 1 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolets were near the top of the charts for solo laps. Friday, Park had the best lap, a 49.399-second; 182.269 mph effort that was also the best turned over the two days by a GM product.
Also Friday, two-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon got going in the last half-hour of the day and ran the second-best Chevy lap, 49.569 seconds, 181.565 mph. Mike Skinner continued his consistent session with the third-best lap of the day, 49.631 seconds, 181.338 mph in his No. 31 RCR Chevrolet. Tony Stewart backed up his fast time from Thursday (49.433/182.065) with a lap in 49.686/181.138 in Joe Gibbs' No. 20 Pontiac. Defending Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte had to leave early to head to a charity dinner in Chicago but turned a best two-day lap of 49.705/181.068 in Gibbs' No. 18 Pontiac. Terry Labonte rounded out the top-6 in the No. 5 Chevrolet at 49.732/180.970.
Park, who used a new car and one of last year's Monte Carlos, assessed the test as a success given the amount of data his team, led by crew chief Paul Andrews, hoped to acquire.
"We're trying to optimize every area of the car -- the motor, the aerodynamics," Park said. "We haven't raced here before with the new spoiler on the roof and stuff and it's giving us an opportunity to see what the car really needs, aerodynamically as well as horsepower-wise."
Gordon's fast lap skewed the unofficial top-10 after four days to include five Chevrolets, two Fords and three Pontiacs mixed throughout the list. Dodge's Intrepids come to DIS next Tuesday and Wednesday for the final preparation work here for Winston Cup cars prior to Speedweeks 2001.
Matt Kenseth maintained his status as the fastest single car to run thus far with his lap last Monday in 49.377 seconds, an average speed of 182.271 in his No. 17 Roush Racing Ford. Park and Stewart were second and third on the cumulative list with Gordon's Chevy and Ricky Craven's No. 32 Ford (49.584/181.510) rounding out the top-5.
The second group on the chart had Skinner (49.602/181.444) sixth, Labonte's Pontiac seventh, followed by Michael Waltrip's No. 15 Chevrolet (49.715/181.032), Kenny Wallace's No. 27 Pontiac (49.718/181.021) and Terry Labonte's No. 5 Chevrolet (49.732/189.970). Mark Martin's No. 6 Ford (49.744/180.926) was in the top-10 until Gordon made his late run.
Park allowed that the different conditions and different agendas used by race teams made the entire testing stew a major guessing game, at best.
"The cars are really handling good -- they're stuck to the race track real nice," Park said. "It's going to make for good drafting and good side-by-side racing with cars that are real stable."
By 3:45 more than half of the teams had settled into drafting workouts while Labonte's team, which had former Daytona ARCA 200 winner Andy Hillenburg standing by to test Labonte's car since he had to fly to Chicago, was packing up. On Labonte's last run a suspected electrical problem caused a misfire and the team decided that, since teammate Stewart was still running and gathering information, they would not re-set Labonte's remaining car for Hillenburg.
In drafting passes, which the GM cars had less time with than the Fords had had earlier in the week, Jerry Nadeau, the series' most recent winner, posted the best lap while running in a train with his No. 25 Hendrick Chevrolet that included Skinner's car. Nadeau's lap was 48.450 seconds; 185.759 mph while Skinner was clocked at 48.547/185.387.
Other quick drafting passes were recorded by Johnny Benson in the No. 10 MBV Pontiac, 48.891/184.083; Bobby Hamilton in the No. 55 APR Chevrolet, 48.903/184.038; and Derrike Cope, who got his Warren Johnson Pontiac motivating at 49.944/183.884.
Rusty Wallace's best drafting lap in a Ford was 47.944 seconds, 187.719 mph Wednesday. -nascar.com-