NEW RULES, TEAM CHANGES AT THUNDER
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Earnhardt Ganassi Racing suffered through a subpar 2011 Sprint Cup season as a group and after some major changes to EGR's structure, no one's readier for the 2012 season to begin than Jamie McMurray and his teammate, Juan Montoya.
McMurray, who won the 2010 Daytona 500 and two other plum victories later that season, struggled to finish 27th in points last season.
More So with virtually a full field of Cup teams expected to test Thursday through Saturday during Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway, McMurray's anxious to gauge the impact of EGR's new team manager, Max Jones, and his own team's new car chief, Randy Cox, from the former Red Bull Racing, and a new engineer, Dave Winston, who came from Penske Racing.
Montoya, who also won a race in 2010 after qualifying for the 2009 Chase, but struggled to 21st in the points last season, is working with a new crew chief, former Hendrick Motorsports engineer Chris Heroy.
But this test is going to be everyone's first chance to work with a complete new rules package that's a result of information gathered during recent tests at Talladega this past October and at Daytona in November.
"While we have had other tests with these setups, 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," NASCAR vice president for competition Robin Pemberton said. "This three-day test will allow the engine tuners for these teams to be able to work with their engine packages and see how they relate and react to the new cooling regulations."
While some of the elements were tested, others are new and being seen on-track by the teams for the first time, including smaller radiators with a two-gallon capacity; a smaller cooling system overflow tank with a capacity of a half-gallon; and the radiator inlet being moved up, closer into the front-center bumper area.
Along with electronic fuel injection, which underwent multiple tests in 2011 preparing for its full implementation in ' 12, teams last year also tested a rate reduction for rear springs, making them softer to get the rear spoiler out of the air; a smaller rear spoiler; and a baseline restrictor plate of 29/32nds of an inch (1/64th-inch larger than the plate size for the 2011 Daytona 500).
NASCAR's made it no secret that their changes are designed to break up the two-car drafting formations that teams have gradually discovered is the quickest way around the biggest speedways. The teams' necessary goal is to continue that style of racing.
"You're going to work on trying to stay locked together and making that [tandem drafting] still work," McMurray said. "I personally hope that no one can do it, and that it doesn't work but I don't know that. They've changed the rules a lot so it will be really interesting to see, when we get down [to Daytona] to see if you're able to stay locked together.
"Because if you are, and those other guys can't -- it's 10 miles per hour difference in speed if you can stay locked together or not -- so yeah, I'm anxious to get down [to Daytona] and see what the cars are going to be like."
Montoya's pretty much on the same page as his teammate.
"Our goal is to figure out what we need to do to make our Target Chevrolet better before we come back down to Daytona [for Speedweeks]," Montoya said. "We've completely redone our cars so it'll be interesting to see what we have when we unload on Thursday. We want to gain as much knowledge as possible. I guess we'll have to see if the changes NASCAR made were enough to break up the tandem drafting or not."
A section of the Oldfield Grandstand is open with free admission each day of the test, with access through the Daytona ticket office.http://www.nascar.com