There's good news and bad news from the Preseason Thunder test at Daytona. The good news is that most drivers are happy with the Gen 6 car, and the cars are performing as NASCAR had hoped. The bad news is that 10 cars were involved in a "big one" while running in a draft, ending the test early for several teams. Unfortunately, due in part to parts shortages, few teams have a backup car on hand.
With 32 cars and 34 drivers on hand, Thursday was mostly spent in single car runs, but the fastest time in the draft was Denny Hamlin's 195.712 miles per hour in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. On Friday, cars were bumping up against 200 mph in the draft. The 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne's Wood Brothers Ford topped the charts at 199.650 mph in the draft, and Jeff Burton's Childress Racing Chevy was fastest in a single car run at 194.805 mph. One of NASCAR's objectives with the new car was to reduce the difference between single car and pack speeds, and it appears that it has been successful. Results of the testing so far also indicate that drivers are not able to bump draft easily with the Gen 6 car, another NASCAR objective.
The Preseason Thunder test is being conducted with some very specific parameters. The cars are running with a 29/32" restrictor plate, the same size as was run last year. The spoiler size is mandated at 4-inches high and 53-inches wide, set at a 70 degree angle. The front grille opening is 1.75-inches high and 23-inches wide, and the radiator relief valve is set at 32 pounds per square inch. From the results of the test so far, it doesn't appear that there will be any drastic changes to any of those parameters.
The multi-car wreck that sent 10 cars to the garage was triggered when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose made contact, sending Ambrose into the wall and then back into traffic. Involved were Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola, and Greg Biffle. Due to the aforementioned shortage of parts for the new car, most drivers elected to forgo drafting for the rest of the test sessions.
Looking ahead to the 2013 Formula 1 season, the fields will be two cars smaller than in 2012, with 22 entries versus 24. The HRT team will not race this season, and no other team has appeared to replace it. This will have the effect of changing the knockout qualifying by eliminating six cars instead of seven in each of the first two qualifying sessions. Other changes include restriction of the use of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) to only the designated DRS zones during practice and qualifying; banning of the "active double DRS" system used by Mercedes last season; more stringent deflection tests for front wings; increase in the cars' minimum weight from 640 kilograms (1408 pounds) to 642 kilograms (1412.4 pounds); tougher tests for the roll cage and survival cell on every car produced; a "vanity panel" to clean up the appearance of the ugly stepped nose; and a requirement that cars stopping on course must have a minimum of one liter of fuel plus the amount it would have taken to return to the pits.