NASCAR clearly isn't the series for those who like long breaks between seasons: with the 2011 championship only decided at the end of November, teams and drivers are already getting back in gear and on track at Daytona International Speedway for three days of pre-season testing starting on Thursday.
There are more changes to the rules and equipment this year than most, beginning with the introduction to the series of the new electronic fuel injection systems.
There are also a large number of changes specific to superspeedway racing being rolled out, with NASCAR making a number of modifications to the rules for the big tracks in a bid to break up the prevalence of two-car tandem push-drafting that was much criticised in 2011.
"This is an opportunity we are providing to the competitors to implement and test the new Daytona rules package for 2012," said NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton.
"While we have had other tests with these setups, this is the first opportunity for the entire field to test together and get more comfortable with this package as it relates to their cars," he added.
The changes include:
- Reduction of the radiator grille openings from five gallon to two gallon;
- Halving the accumulator can to a half-gallon size, in a related bid to dramatically reduce the efficiency of cooling systems and force the cars to run in open air;
- Changing the location of the grille opening and moving it up into bumper fascia area, which will dramatically reduce air intake when cars are running closely together;
- In addition, there will be softer springs and a smaller rear spoiler;
- And finally, the baseline restrictor-plate size will now be set at 29/32ths of an inch, up 1/64th of an inch on the size allowed in the 2011 Daytona 500;
"It'll be a short number of laps, and they'll be peeking out a lot more," said Chris Paulson, whose company C&R Racing manufactures most of the radiators used in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. "They certainly won't be able to do a sustained lap-after-lap run. I think that'll be taken care of."
"I think our goal is to reduce the differential, if you will, from the tandem car push to what we consider a normal drafting type of a race," explained Sprint Cup Series director John Darby of the thinking behind the changes.
"Maybe instead of being a seven mile an hour difference we get it to one or two, so there's just more options available for all the drivers in whichever way they choose to approach the Daytona 500," he continued.
The proof will be on the track, with this week's testing likely to confirm whether or not the new measures have finally made progress on stopping the tandem drafting - or whether NASCAR will be forced to make still more regulation changes prior to Daytona Speedweeks next month.
The sessions will last from 9am to 5pm local time on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a break for lunch.Kyle Busch Motorsports signs Jason Leffler
Kyle Busch Motorsports will field Jason Leffler in their #18 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series #18 Tundra in 2012, the team announced this week.
Dollar General will be the primary sponsor for Leffler's 14 race appearances, beginning with the season opener at Daytona next month. The team is still seeking additional sponsorship to allow it to run the truck in the remaining eight races of the 22-event season.
"We are thrilled to have Leffler on board to drive the Dollar General Toyota this season," said team owner Kyle Busch. "He's a pro behind the wheel and will be a great fit for the #18."
Busch himself has been the team's lead driver, but commitments to his sponsors and to Joe Gibbs Racing will see him concentrate on Cup and Nationwide Series runs in 2012, handing over the keys to his truck to Leffler. The 36-year-old Californian had one win and 19 top five finishes in 46 Truck Series outings and has been competing in Nationwide for much of the last decade where he has two wins and 42 top fives in 292 starts, as well as eight poles. He has finished in the top ten in the Nationwide Series standings for the last five years.
KBM was set up in 2010 and became the first team in the series history to win an owner's championship in its maiden year. In total, KBM has won 16 races and 32 top fives in just 50 starts.Kurt Busch to compete in Nationwide series
As well as his new deal to compete in the Sprint Cup
with Phoenix Racing, Kurt Busch will also drive the team's #1 Chevrolet NASCAR Nationwide Series car in a limited number of "all major events" in 2012, it has been announced.
"Everyone at Phoenix Racing is excited about competing on the Nationwide circuit this year," said said Phoenix Racing's general manager, Steve Barkdoll. "Our Nationwide Series team is a proven, winning organization and we're looking forward to Busch continuing the tradition."
Phoenix Racing has competed in Nationwide since 1989 and has 12 wins among 61 top five finishes during its history.Reutimann confirms Truck series runs
David Reutimann has confirmed that he will be returning to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2012, driving in up to 15 events in the #92 Ricky Benton Racing Chevrolet.
"We heard about [Reutimann's] situation after being released from Michael Waltrip Racing," said team spokesman Rick Benton. "He's a very marketable guy and we thought he'd be a good fit for what we like to do business with a lot of clients. It all came together and that's where we're at."
Details for the season are still being worked out, but Reutimann should make his return to the Truck Series - in which he was runner-up in the 2004 championship - at Daytona, with other outings being structured around his new 26 Cup race deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing announced last week
"We're going to try to run races that tag along with the Cup schedule, but there may be a couple of other events," added Benton. "We're setting out to run 15 races. That's the goal, and then try to see what we can fit in there."
"The Truck Series is where I got my start," said Reutimann. "It's a very competitive series and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to run some races with a good team that is in the process of building.