Kevin Harvick says he believes the non-championship Budweiser Shootout at Daytona has taken on added significance this year following NASCAR's decision to implement a testing ban for the new season.
With teams unable to test at Daytona ahead of the season, as would have been the case in the past, the Shootout will provide the competing teams with the chance to complete some extra running ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500 and Harvick said that made the non-championship race more important than ever.
“I think it's a significant race this year, just for the fact that you haven't been able to go to Daytona and test and do the things that you've been able to do in the past,” he said. “I think they should leave the testing out at Daytona forever and make the Bud Shootout the test session, but I don't know if that's ever going to happen.
“I think it plays a huge role in getting your stuff where it needs to be and a lot of notes and things that you need for the next week.”
Harvick's Richard Childress Racing team-mate Casey Mears will make his debut in the #07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet having moved over from Hendrick Motorsports during the off-season and he too said that data collected from the Shootout would be important moving forwards.
“I don't know if [being in the Shootout] is going to be a huge advantage but getting a race under our belts is the biggest benefit,” he said. “It's really hard to simulate those conditions in a test or even in practice. Obviously, we practice in groups but you've got guys blending into the group which would never happen in a race. That kind of breaks up the group and people get different runs. I think people are hesitant to get into really tight packs because it's just practice. The key is we're going to see true race conditions.
“Obviously, having a full year under our belts with the Impala SS gives us a baseline to go off of. I'm excited to see how the car has improved and how the RCR cars drive compared to where I was last year. All the information we gather during the Bud Shootout is going to be really valuable.”