2012 Pre-Season Thunder and Testing Preview

By Guest Blogger and Race Fan Glenn Locke

Glenn is a rookie blogger.  His favorite NASCAR race team is Hendrick Motorsports. He also enjoys other racing venues including, IZOD IndyCar Series and F1.  And you can listen to Glenn talk about racing on TMR Sports every Monday at 4 pm PT, 7pm ET on Talkshoe.com


SPEED will have online and TV coverage
of Pre-Season Thunder Testing
(Photo from speedtv.com)

This is the time of year when race fans shake off memories, good and bad of the 2011 season. Also it’s when more than forty-three race teams are busy fine-tuning their 3,400 pound cars for another new year of competition. Fans will get their mid-winter race viewing revving  up again with Pre-Season Thunder testing this week in Daytona beginning January 12 – 14.  You can watch at speedtv.com online at 9 am ET in the mornings and on SPEED in the afternoons beginning at 1 pm ET. So, let’s take a look at what fans can expect to see with preparations and testing and as we find out which teams are ready and which ones still have more work to do. 

Based on fan and driver feedback, NASCAR changed the rules attempting to break up the two-car-tango and go back to old style pack racing.  The new rules were designed after testing in 2011 at Talladega in October and Daytona in November.  Regarding testing this week in Daytona, Robin Pemberton – vice president of competition says, “This is an opportunity we are providing to the competitors to implement and test the new Daytona rules package for 2012.” Pemberton went on to say, “It’s a chance for them (the drivers) to get comfortable with the cooling package, the smaller spoiler and to practice drafting for next month’s Daytona 500.” Continuing, Pemberton says, “While we have had other tests with these set-ups, this is the first opportunity for the entire field to test together and get more comfortable with this package as it relates to their cars.”

The new rules package includes, smaller radiators with a maximum of 2 gallon capacity; smaller overflow tank with a maximum capacity of 1/2 gallon;  the radiator inlet is moved up closer into the front center bumper area; the rate reduction in the springs is softer; smaller rear spoiler; and the base line restrictor plate is 29/32 inch, which is 1/64 inch larger than for the 2011 Daytona 500.  

Although these changes are intended to minimize tandem racing on the superspeedways, fans should also consider the pros and cons of pack racing, as it creates tighter racing, with no room to move around, making passing more difficult.  If a driver pulls out to pass, they still need drafting help, otherwise their car will be sucked back like a Lego toy in a vacuum cleaner.  Even with the new rules package, I don’t think we are going to see strictly pack racing, as fans have seen in the past.  In fact, we might see drivers go back to two-by-two racing at times in order to move forward on the track. So with all the cars on the track, watch for this in pack driving this week.
Example of Restrictor plate
used in NASCAR

With the way the cars are now, the drivers can hit a speed of around 200 mph in single car runs and 210 mph in the draft.  By testing the new restrictor plate in drafting tests this week, hopefully drivers can see what is going to influence drafting most on the track. The new rules also made modifications to spoilers.  And teams will again be studying to see how this change will impact their performance on the track. Depending on how testing goes this week, we might even see more rules changes before the February races, especially if in tests, drivers are unable to attain the desired pack racing on track . 

Watch for teams also checking to see how the new electronic fuel injection will affect their fuel mileage. No longer using carburetors, fuel mileage is an unknown for teams this year with the new EFI packages.  So this information will be particularly important knowledge for crew chiefs wanting to make accurate decisions during fuel-mileage races throughout the year.
Also, fans should keep their eye on driver conversations this week as there might be some deals made during testing. Remember last year when we saw Kurt Busch and Regan Smith working together? We also saw Dale Jr. with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski with his brother Brian Keselowski, working together in last year’s Duel qualifying races.  With numerous silly season changes, I have a feeling we’ll see some of the same deals and maybe some new deals with different drafting partner combinations than we’ve seen in the past. 

Many say that pack racing will be more fun…but perhaps more dangerous and for some, more boring is more accurate. Again, with Pack Racing, all the cars will be on top of one another, with no room to pass or make a move, making passing difficult. One false move or twitch with any car could start the “Big One,” creating chaos, and ruining the day for a lot of teams. So testing this week means a lot to all teams trying to be  “the team” creating an advantage to win the coveted Daytona 500. 

With Red Bull Racing out of the picture this year, the team that might lead the Toyota camp is Michael Waltrip Racing or perhaps Joe Gibbs Racing.  MWR has the #15, #56 and #55, and fans know Michael Waltrip is no stranger to the draft. With wins at both Daytona and Talladega, I see Waltrip leading his MWR Toyotas to the front.  From the Dodge camp, Penske Racing with Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger could be drafting-darkhorses in Daytona.  Fords’ number one team has been Roush, and with Carl Edwards coming up shy of winning his first cup chamionship last year, I look for him and Matt Kenseth to lead that manufactuer.  Chevy, I left for last because they are the strongest in drafting.  Hendrick Motorsports have their pairs ready to race with #5 and #24 together and with the #48 and #88 being partners.  Many fans are not into the 48/88 pairing right now, but I think once one of those two wins, whether it’s the Shootout or the big race itself, fans will once again be happy.  RCR have not been up to par with their drating program, winning only one plate track in the Fall Dega race. I think the RCR bunch need to get back in the saddle and try to fix their program a bit at testing so they might be top of the charts when it’s time to stop testing this weekend. And finally the smaller teams also called the “go or go homers” might not have enough funds to even go to the 500, but have enough money to attend this test and prep for the Dega races. So expect to see them in the mix this weekend as well.

So there you have it race fans.  Hope this information gives you some ideas of what to watch for at this week’s Daytona testing.  And as we head into Pre-Season Thunder Testing, we’ll see who has been doing their homework over the holidays, or who has been slacking, with more work on their plate to be ready for the great American race, the Daytona 500 in February.

Glenn Locke has already indicated, he will be writing another blog in February…so watch for more from him as a guest blogger at Fan4Racing.  Fans can follow Glenn on Twitter @GL2488 and on YouTube he is MojofiedGL2488.  Thanks!

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3 thoughts on “2012 Pre-Season Thunder and Testing Preview

  1. Thanks Glenn, for giving fans a preview of what to expect with testing. Much of what you've written has now come to pass. Wonder what new changes NASCAR will bring before the green flag at Daytona in February. Looking forward to reading future posts from you, Glenn!

  2. Welcome Glen! Thanks for the informative piece about testing, I can't wait to see what other changes may come about before the green flag drops at Daytona for the 500.

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