Daytona Testing Takes a Turn for the Worse with Pack Racing Melee

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2013

This Photo Must Be Cropped
This Photo Must Be CroppedTom Pennington/Getty Images

It became terribly obvious on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway that bump drafting with the Gen-6 car can be dangerous on the high-banked track when Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car failed to align with the No. 9 Ford.

The successful effort to bring brand identity back to NASCAR racing also brought changes to the cars that prohibit drivers from pushing cars the way they did with the COT.

Earnhardt attempted to bump draft with Marcos Ambrose, but because of the structure of the front of his Chevrolet SS, he tended to lift Ambrose who went spinning, and some 12 cars were involved in the ensuing chaos.

Earnhardt made it through the debris field, and he and his team will continue testing on Saturday. He had drafted more easily with the Chevrolets and Toyotas, but things didn't go as planned with the Ford.

The new cars are supposed to have more downforce at intermediate tracks, which should make racing at the cookie-cutter tracks much improved, but at Daytona the cars were really loose in the draft.

Testing is all about learning what teams need to do to prepare for the upcoming season. Preseason Thunder is about preparing the Cup cars for the upcoming races during Speedweeks.

Parts are still limited for teams, and it was hoped that there would not be a "big one" during the test sessions. Most teams did not have a backup car, so a wreck would likely cause them to return to Charlotte.

Most of the teams involved in the wreck loaded up and headed home. Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano were among those in the wreck.

The No. 99 team of Carl Edwards did have a backup car, and Kyle Busch's team made the necessary repairs to continue testing.

Some teams proceeded with caution, so far as testing in the pack. Only two of the four teams from Richard Childress Racing participated in the packs at any given time, just in case things turned south.

NASCAR encouraged the teams to engage in pack racing during the afternoon session on Friday, but with the accident taking out a lot of cars, the remaining test sessions will likely be single-car runs.

The drivers remain enthusiastic about the new car that really does put driving back in the hands of the drivers. The cars are faster and looser, and drivers are finding that the racing is more like it was in the years prior to the COT that was introduced in 2007.

Preseason Thunder is nearly completed at Daytona, but as promised by NASCAR, it does indeed look like fans are going to see much better racing.

It is just unfortunate things took a turn for the worse during testing, but that is what it is all about. No doubt much was learned despite the wrecked cars.