Most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams hit the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Thursday for the first of three-consecutive days of testing for the new "Gen-6" race car. Matt Kenseth posted the fastest lap speed of 192.757 mph during the morning session in his new position behind the wheel of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, and Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, were also fast during the morning session. Ambrose was second-fastest with a fast lap speed of 192.736 mph and Patrick was third with a fastest lap of 192.583 mph.
The plan for most teams during the seven hours of testing (three hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon) on Thursday was to concentrate on single car runs. But Joe Gibbs Racing was on a different agenda, at least in the afternoon. Kenseth and one of his new teammates, Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 JGR Toyota, hooked up early on in the afternoon session and jumped to the top of the leader board.
Kenseth wasn't sure that he learned much, though, drafting with only one other car.
"Not sure I learned anything," he said.
With everyone else going it alone, the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Kenseth and Hamlin remained atop the scoring sheet most of the afternoon until Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, managed a lap at 194.620 mph during the final hour of Thursday testing, despite running alone, to claim the fastest lap time to that point.
Not sure I learned anything. Matt Kenseth
According to Burton, his lap time was the result of a qualifying-type setup, while most other teams were testing more of a racing setup.
"We got more tape than they did," Burton said. "I know there are a lot of teams out there that can go faster than they are."
With about 10 minutes left to go before the first day of testing concluded, Joe Gibbs Racing, along with the No. 55 Toyota team of Michael Waltrip Racing decided to test the drafting waters even further. Mark Martin, driver of the No. 55, went out onto the track with the JGR trio of Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, to see what they could do in a four car draft. As a result of the four cars running together, they posted the top-four fastest times of the session and the day, overall, with Hamlin posting the fastest lap, with a speed of 195.712 mph. Kenseth was second-fastest with a 195.285 mph-lap. Busch was third, posting a fast lap of 195.329 mph, and Martin's 195.163 mph was good enough for fourth
Most teams planned to save drafting for Friday and Saturday test sessions, but JGR will be missing one of its drivers for the remainder of Daytona testing. Hamlin left the track on Thursday evening to head back home to North Carolina to await the impending birth of his first child with girlfriend, Jordan Fish.