NASCAR Preseason Thunder Wraps Up
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After six days and three different series, Preseason Thunder testing wrapped up on Tuesday at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series concluded a two-day test, all in preparation for the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday, Feb. 21, part of Budweiser Speedweeks 2014.
Testing earlier during Preseason Thunder were the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series. Next up at the “World Center of Racing” will be the Rolex 24 At Daytona Weekend on Jan. 22-26.
On Monday’s first day of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series testing, Turner Scott Motorsports driver Jeb Burton, son of 2002 Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton, posted the top speed of 191.144 mph in the No. 4 Chevrolet. Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR and Daytona Int’l Speedway founder William H.G. “Big Bill” France, was second fastest at 190.925.
“There’s so much history behind Daytona and it would be really cool to get a trophy here,” Burton said. “It’s only my second time here. Last year we finished fifth and we always have a lot of speed at restrictor plate tracks so I’m excited for 2014.”
On Tuesday, showers delayed the start of testing until early afternoon and only a handful of teams remained to participate on the second day with Johnny Sauter being the fastest at 183.921 mph.
The two-day test was a moment that Kennedy had been dreaming about for many years. Entering his first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driving for Turner Scott Motorsports, Kennedy is the son of ISC Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy and grandson to Bill France Jr.
He was practically raised at the “World Center of Racing” and turning his first laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval put a big smile on the rookie driver’s face.
“The first two laps or so I was grinning from ear to ear,” Kennedy said. “It was really awesome to do that. From always being around this racetrack and always watching races here and working here and doing pretty much everything here, I was sort of born and raised here. Being able to go around the track was something special, and being able to race here on the same weekend as the Daytona 500 is something awesome.”
Kennedy is campaigning for top rookie honors in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East since 2010.
Kennedy began his racing career on the short tracks of Central Florida. He has Pro-Truck championship titles at both Orlando Speedworld and New Smyrna Speedway, which he earned in 2009, followed by the Super Late Model championship at Orlando Speedworld in 2010.
While he has competed at Daytona on the backstretch in last year’s UNOH Battle At The Beach, he had never turned laps on the 2.5-mile tri-oval and had never participated in any kind of drafting sessions until this week.
“I’ve experienced a little bit of drafting, but not to that magnitude,” Kennedy said. “It’s a little bit different from what I expected. The side draft, and all of that different stuff, it was a unique experience.”
Twenty trucks recorded times during an extended test session Monday. Teams were granted an extra 45 minutes to test their trucks in the draft, as weather threatened to impact Tuesday’s track time. They made the most of that time, as a 10-truck draft finished off Monday’s action in high-speed style.
John Wes Townley (190.917 mph), Matt Crafton (190.634) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (190.577) rounded out the top five for the test session. NASCAR officials were pleased with what they saw from the Chevrolet Silverados, Ford F-150s and Toyota Tundras.
“I think we’ve had a good test down here with all three series,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. “The Sprint Cup Series session was a nice long day but it nonetheless was a good test; the Nationwide Series had obviously the best overall test in terms of timing and cooperation from the weather; and it looks like everybody with the Camping World Truck Series came down prepared, which is good to see.”