The three-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team hit the track for the first time in 2013, shaking down its new Chevrolet SS in a three-day test session Jan. 10-12 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to prepare for the season-opening Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Feb. 24.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, was the only one of the three drivers to participate in drafting practice during the test known as NASCAR Preseason Thunder, while SHR teammates Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, and Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS, worked on single-car runs.
Stewart posted the fastest time of the three SHR drivers due to his participation in drafting practice Friday afternoon, touring the 2.5-mile oval in 45.605 seconds at 197.347 mph. He was able to avoid a multi-car accident on the backstretch during the session, which sent several teams home early.
“It’s good to be back here,” said Stewart, who has five restrictor-plate victories in Sprint Cup, with four coming at Daytona – all in the Coke Zero 400 in July. “It’s good to be back with the guys and see everyone after the holidays. We did some drafting on Friday and it’s not any different than what it’s always been, and we saw that. It’s the same thing when you put cars in a wad like that. It just is what it is. That’s restrictor-plate racing.”
Newman is looking to score his second Daytona 500 victory as he took the top spot in the “Great American Race” in 2008.
“It’s important for us to get as much speed out of a new package as we can, so we put our focus on that,” said Newman, whose Daytona 500 victory came in the 50th running of the iconic race. “When we come back here in February, we’ll come back more in race mode and make sure the cars drive and handle well in the draft. In the meantime, our focus has been to make our car the fastest, so we can be the first car in the draft.”
Patrick was pleased with her test as she gears up for her second Daytona 500 start and just her 11th career Sprint Cup start.
“The test went pretty much as good as we hoped it could,” said Patrick, who won the pole for last February’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona. “The car was fast, the changes showed up when we made them, and the car responded to changes well. We didn’t do any drafting except at the very end when we got behind some people just a little and got a little sense for the balance, cooling and airflow.”
Trevor Bayne, who won the Daytona 500 in 2011, posted the top speed of the test on Friday afternoon during drafting practice when he turned a lap of 45.079 seconds at 199.650 mph.
The 55th Daytona 500, the first race of the 2013 Sprint Cup season, gets underway at 1 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 24, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with a pre-race show at noon.