Daytona Beach, Fla. — After two days of single-car runs, RPM Motorsports decided to get a look at the new world of drafting Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, and AJ Allmendinger was sent on the mission.
Allmendinger became the first—and, eventually, only one of two—Ford drivers to test the draft on Daytona’s new surface Saturday. There was no drafting in packs during the three-day session as teams sought to protect their primary Daytona 500 cars from damage—accidental or otherwise. Some drivers hooked up in two-car drafts; many chose not to draft at all.
Allmendinger’s drafting runs produced the fifth-fastest speed of the Saturday morning session—196.386 mph. He drafted at 197.589 in the afternoon.
Carl Edwards and Allmendinger drafted with Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon. Edwards ran 197.403 in the draft in the afternoon.
“It’s tough to tell,” Allmendinger said after his run. “You get hooked up with two cars, and that’s all it is. It will be all different when you have 43 cars out there.
“Everybody’s going to be pushing and shoving each other. It’s going to be an amazing race for the fans, and it’s going to be phenomenal to watch on TV. It’s going to be scary as hell inside the race car.”
Drivers say they expect three-wide racing on the newly repaved track to be standard operating procedure, and two-car drafts were able to stay hooked up all the way around the speedway Friday and Saturday, creating another strategic possibility for the 500.
“In the end, it’s going to come down to two cars locking up together and pushing each other for the win,” Allmendinger said. “Hopefully, you can put yourself in that position.”
Allmendinger struggled in restrictor-plate races last year, finishing 32nd and 36th at Daytona and 19th and 32nd at Talladega.
“For me, I just need to get better at this stuff, whether it’s two cars or 40 cars,” he said. “Talladega has been my worst race track, and now that’s what this is—a shorter, narrower Talladega.”
Dodge driver Brad Keselowski led the Saturday afternoon session—and the three days of testing—with a draft speed of 198.605. He was drafting with teammate Kurt Busch, who had the second fastest speed at 198.579.
Drafting speeds stayed significantly below the 200 mph barrier, and NASCAR officials said they don’t expect to change restrictor-plate sizes to hold down speeds during Daytona 500 activities.
Credit - Ford Racing