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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


Related Pictures

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Kevin Harvick celebrates his last-gasp victory in the 2009 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won the Pole position Friday, April 11, 2014 for Saturday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 26th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop Toyota, at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Matt Crafton in action at Daytona International Speedway on 14 January 2014. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
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