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Should pre-season testing at Daytona disappear?

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After Saturday's wild Budweiser Shootout, followed by Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session, there's a good argument for doing away with pre-season testing at Daytona International Speedway completely.

Due to suspension of pre-season testing at Daytona and Las Vegas last month, the Budweiser Shootout and qualifying, as well as practices for both events, were the first opportunities for Sprint Cup Series teams to get track time at a NASCAR venue this year.

In an effort to cut costs for teams, NASCAR has waived testing at sanctioned tracks for its three national touring and two regional racing series during the 2009 season.

The Budweiser Shootout gave the fans and NASCAR a show they wanted, as the race produced a record number of lead changes (23), leaders (14) and cautions (eight), mostly for crashes.

Kevin Harvick fell out of the lead pack early in the race, but managed to squeeze through Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin and then slingshot past Jamie McMurray for the lead just before the race ended under caution for a multi-car accident. Harvick took the event from the 27th starting position, which is the furthest back a driver has started and won it.

After the race, Harvick admitted that pre-season testing at Daytona is not really beneficial.

Kevin Harvick believes that pre-season testing at Daytona is not really beneficial.
"Every other time we've been in the Shootout coming here, it's like you got to get another car ready," Harvick said. "It's usually your third best car. You save the two for the 500. It's a lot of work for the guys getting a third car ready, testing it, doing all the things you do with it. Then you got to go to Vegas, you got to go to Daytona, you have to do all the testing over the winter. I hope we cancel testing every winter. I hate testing."

Some drivers have said the cars typically perform better in race-runs during testing in January because temperatures are generally cooler and there's hardly any rubber on the track surface. However, they claim their cars don't drive as well when they return to Daytona in February for Speedweeks.

For drivers and teams, it has been an unusually long offseason, but now they've returned to the track with a new passion.

"The drivers are excited to come down here," Harvick said. "Everybody is excited to be at the racetrack, smell the fumes of the cars and drive laps. There's just that added enthusiasm."

No pre-season testing this year has allowed teams to spend more time at their shops, fine tuning the cars for the upcoming season. The extra time in the shop certainly paid off for the newly-formed Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, with Martin Truex, Jr. driving the team's No.1 Chevrolet to the pole position for next Sunday's Daytona 500.

In one of many team mergers during the offseason, Dale Earnhardt Inc. aligned with Chip Ganassi Racing, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola also driving Chevrolets for the organization this year. Montoya recorded the fourth-fastest lap in Daytona 500 qualifying in the No.42 car, while Almirola posted the seventh-fastest lap in the No.8 entry.

John Andretti will drive the No.34 Chevrolet in a collaboration between EGR and Front Row Motorsports. Andretti was 36th of 56 drivers who competed in qualifying.

Montoya, Almirola and Andretti are guaranteed a starting spot in the Daytona 500, based on top-35 owner points from last year. All three drivers can advance their positions for the Daytona 500, depending on where they finish in Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona (twin qualifying races).

None of EGR's drivers were eligible for this year's Budweiser Shootout. Therefore, the only track time they have received so far this year is qualifying practices and runs at Daytona.

Crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion, who guided Truex to his second career pole in the series felt not having testing at the 2.5-mile speedway worked to their advantage.

"I think that a little bit more time off gets you prepared better," Manion said. "We came down here with a better race car than we've ever come down here with, without even testing. It gave the guys time. With all that went on this winter with us, with our team, with moving shops and combining our efforts, I think testing would have hurt us more than helped us."

Whenever NASCAR does decide to lift its suspension on testing, perhaps the sanctioning body should drop Daytona, allowing teams to prepare more thoroughly for upcoming races in the season during the winter.

Given what we've seen so far in Daytona, it should be interesting to find out whether a "quiet" January at "The World Center of Racing" will have any impact on Speedweeks events.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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