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Testing ban works for on-track action

The ban on testing at tracks on the race schedule was designed to save money in a tough economy but it's apparent that, after one of the best big-track shows in recent memory - in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway - NASCAR's frugal policy saved a lot more than that.

The biggest saving appears to be in wear and tear on the organisations that compete in Sprint Cup racing as, by this time last year, teams had criss-crossed the United States for two test sessions in Daytona and one each in Las Vegas and Fontana - at a minimum. This year, drivers, owners and crews arrived for Speedweeks fresh in body and spirit, full of pent-up enthusiasm, harbouring undiluted dreams of winning the Daytona 500 or, in the case of the lower-tier organisations, simply making the field.

“If you look at the crew guys, they're not beat up from having to run across the country all winter,” Shootout winner Kevin Harvick noted, “The drivers are excited to come down here. Everybody is excited to be at the racetrack, smell the fumes of the cars, drive laps. There's just that added enthusiasm.

“It's like everybody got a wake-up call and said 'hey, we need to get our stuff together'. We have never not been able to go to the racetrack and not test. Now you get to come to the racetrack, and it's like taking your favourite toy away. It's almost like you got grounded for a few months, and now you get to come out and have fun with it again.”

Against that backdrop, the Shootout was a rollicking good time, with records set for different leaders (14), lead changes (23) and cautions (eight). After a fourth-place finish, Jeff Gordon said the race was 'absolutely madness'.

Less than 24 hours later, Martin Truex Jr - who wasn't eligible to race in the Shootout - won the pole for the Daytona 500. Truex drives for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, the product of a difficult birth during the off-season, but was also happy for the test ban, as the principals of the organisation spent the winter cobbling together Dale Earnhardt Inc and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

“I think that a little bit more time off gets you prepared better,” Truex said, “We came down here with a better racecar 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.

“I think it was to our advantage that nobody could test, because I think we would have been a little behind if we had to. I think that it would have taken away from our efforts at the shop and getting everything prepared just right. As far as coming down here and testing, I think it hurts not going to the downforce tracks a little bit as a driver, but I think I did enough racing online to keep the rust off.”

Insiders have warned not to expect every race to equal the drama of the Shootout, however, where drivers were willing to up the ante in risk-taking because no championship points were on the line.

“Last night, nobody was giving an inch,” Jimmie Johnson said before qualifying on Sunday, “The bump-drafting was back to slam-drafting. From here on out, until the last restart [in the Daytona 500], it's going to be pretty calm - at least, that's what I'm hoping.”

Maybe discretion will be the better part of valour for the rest of Speedweeks, but it's already apparent the lack of testing may have helped rather than hurt the level of competition. Just look at the sleek, beautifully-prepared racecar the Wood Brothers brought to the track after spending the winter getting it ready. Bill Elliott duly qualified fifth in the #21 Ford.

If Harvick has his way, testing at NASCAR tracks will be a thing of the past.

“I hope we cancel testing every winter,” he admitted, “I hate testing.”

If the Shootout is an indication, he's right. Who needs it?

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service


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Kevin Harvick celebrates his last-gasp victory in the 2009 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 5th position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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