Hendrick drivers lead first day of Preseason Thunder

Hendrick drivers lead first day of Preseason Thunder

Preseason Thunder - The (sometimes boring) Calm before the Storm Hendrick Motorsports seems to have picked up where they left off in 2007, with the top three fastest times posted in the morning session and the top three fastest times posted in...


Preseason Thunder - The (sometimes boring) Calm before the Storm

Hendrick Motorsports seems to have picked up where they left off in 2007, with the top three fastest times posted in the morning session and the top three fastest times posted in the afternoon session. Hendrick was by far the strongest team when it came to the new car in 2007, and it doesn't appear that they have fallen off any in the short off-season.

Jimmie Johnson talks with teammate Jeff Gordon.
Photo by John Dunagan - Fastlines.
Jimmie Johnson, the 2007 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, lead both sessions and his Hendrick teammate, Casey Mears, finished second and third in both morning and afternoon testing sessions.

"Typically when we come to the restrictor plate tracks, it's about making the car slick, and they all drive about the same, and they're fine. But with this car, the first time being here, on such a rough surface, there is a lot of speed and making the car drive right.," said Johnson (who lead the morning session with a time of 48.706 (184.782 mph), and the afternoon session with a time of 48.735 (184.672 mph). "It's been fun, I didn't expect today to be this much fun, and really, be challenging as a driver, challenging for the team to find the right setup and balance in the car."

If Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports are struggling, the rest of the competition needs to lookout.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made the right move coming down to Daytona to be with his teammates when his test session isn't until next week. So far he has won over his teammates and he continues to impress.

"I was surprised, most drivers, you know, if they're not here to test, they don't want to be here," said Jeff Gordon. "I was surprised and I think it says a lot, you know, and it is smart on his part, so I am really proud of him for doing that."

Why smart though?

Possibly because the new car doesn't handle anything like the old car did on superspeedways and it shows that Earnhardt Jr. really wants to make things work and be successful at Hendrick Motorsports.

"I don't have any teammates to test with next week. The COT has never been to Daytona. I wanted to make sure if there were some hurdles, I wanted to see them," said Earnhardt Jr. "It looks like the car took right to the racetrack, and our guys are happy with the way they seem. You learn the most the first day, and you try to be around to hear some of that. There's a lot to learn with this car every day. I want to have that in my memory bank when I come back. I really didn't have anything going on today. I'm relaxing, have no responsibilities today, so it's nice to be at the racetrack."

There were a lot of noticeable appearances at Daytona though that was overshadowed by Jr.'s surprise visit.

Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by Christopher Sink - Cakewalk Photo.
Think Tony Stewart is worried about 2008? Stewart plans to test for a change instead of skipping the usually boring sessions to try and get the hang of Toyota for the upcoming season.

Robby Gordon also was present as the Dakar rally was canceled for the first time in 30 years, costing Gordon an estimated 4.5 million out of pocket. Gordon and his team did not perform too well though on the charts, posting the 33rd fastest time in the morning session and 38th fastest time in the afternoon session.

Jacques Villeneuve, A.J. Allmendinger, Kyle Busch and Toyota seemed to hit the ground running (again) but we'll see how that pans out, remember the great showing they had in Daytona last year? Let's not count our chickens before they hatch. Toyota did occupy eight of the top 12 times posted during the morning session and six of the top 12 times posted during the afternoon session.

For all the Villeneuve fans, just remember, it is only Daytona. We'll see how he does later into the season.

The rest of Preseason Thunder should be just as expected, not too much excitement and take everything with a grain of salt, teams can get away with a lot during this time as it isn't considered cheating during a non-race weekend.

Most of these teams are stretching the boundaries and seeing how much they can get away with so they don't get penalized during the regular season.

Once again it looks like Chevrolet is going to loom large and in charge for 2008, as the highest competitor was fourth in both sessions (Toyota - No. 27B AM, Toyota - No. 18 PM). The highest Dodge in the morning and afternoon sessions was Juan Pablo Montoya in 14th. The highest Ford in the morning session was Travis Kvapil in 15th, and in the afternoon session, it was also Kvapil in 8th.

The 2008 season is beginning to slowly get started and we'll see if any of these early indicators hold true.

Editor's note: Nicholas Morse is currenty submitting segments of what to expect in 2008 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams and drivers. Expect his third installment tomorrow or Wednesday.

Please see:
NASCAR Cup heads into 2008, part 1
NASCAR Cup heads into 2008, part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Hendrick Motorsports