Mike Skinner Fastest First Day

Skinner fastest in first GM day at Daytona By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2000) Mike Skinner was fastest in the first day of pre-Speedweeks winter testing Monday at Daytona International Speedway by nine General Motors...

Skinner fastest in first GM day at Daytona By Brett Borden

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2000) Mike Skinner was fastest in the first day of pre-Speedweeks winter testing Monday at Daytona International Speedway by nine General Motors NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams.

While 17 Ford Taurus outfits worked out their "Y2K bugs" at Talladega Superspeedway, Skinner, who has always performed well in testing at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, topped out at a speed of 185.216 mph in one of two No. 31 Chevrolets he tested. Ken Schrader was second fastest at 185.002 in one of two No. 36 Pontiacs at his disposal and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third at 184.627, likewise in one of two cars he ran.

"The car is a lot more comfortable and a lot easier to drive with the new shock package," said Skinner, referring to the newly mandated 'standard' shocks issued to teams prior to testing. In 1999, the cars used a shock and spring package designed to 'squat' the back of the car to get the rear spoiler out of the airflow. The new shocks were implemented to keep costs down for the teams.

"I don't think the fans will ever see any difference, but the speeds are going to be a lot slower in qualifying I can promise you that," added Skinner. "This new Monte Carlo seems to be pretty good. We were a little concerned with it on the speedways. Our main goal was to get some downforce.

"I think it's going to race good. It'll probably keep up OK qualifying. We'll know a lot more next week when the Fords run. It's not as aggressive as our race package. It's pretty easy to drive around there. We don't have to worry about the fillings falling out of our teeth."

While Ford teams participated in their first en masse test Monday and Tuesday at Talladega, GM teams were at Daytona. The camps will switch roles when the Ford teams come into Daytona Wednesday and Thursday. The teams' final "mandatory" tests are next week, when GM cars run Jan. 17-18 and Fords run Jan. 20-21.

Skinner's car had enough bite to have the fastest car in both sessions of practice Monday, an abbreviated morning run and the afternoon session that was briefly interrupted by spotty rain showers. He and the rest of the GM contingent will finish their two-day open test Tuesday.

"If we come out of here and we're in the top three or four, we'll be in good shape," Skinner said. "We usually have a lot more engine when we come back. We're the fastest right now (after morning session). We're not that far off our goals as far as the lap times are concerned. A couple of more tenths, and we'll be right in there where we wanted to be. For the first test, that would be good."

Earnhardt Jr. said he is thrilled to be in Daytona getting ready for a go at the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award.

"I'm real excited," he said. "It just doesn't show right now. We're trying to figure out what's going to help the car. We've got some new guys on the team, so everybody is feeling each other out in the first test. We're working with new people, with new race cars in a new series. We're just trying to stick to business and not get in anybody's way. I'm looking forward to it.

"We've got two cars here. We tested it at Talladega last year. It's a little bit better than the new car we've got here. It's fresh off the floor. We're working with some suspension stuff, and we've made some pretty good gains with it. The body on it is done. On the new car, we're working on the body. Whatever we learn with the suspension changes on the first car, we'll put on the new car.

"I was pretty excited to get here to Daytona. This track, for some reason, you can't get enough of it. I like going around it every lap. It's a lot of fun to drive on, more so than any other track I know of. I guess it's got a lot to do with the history of the track and watching all those races here.

"It's a neat place to be. We're going to test at probably the first six tracks we go to, and I'm not really looking forward to that. I don't like to test a whole lot, but Daytona is a lot of fun."

A section of the Oldfield Grandstand is open each day free of charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with access through the DAYTONA USA lobby.

nascar.com

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