Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - NASCAR officials seem to be very encouraged so far with their revised rules package for next month's Speedweeks events at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton and Sprint Cup Series director John Darby gave a competition update on the new rules on Friday at Daytona. Thirty-two Sprint Cup teams are in the midst of a three-day test session at the 2.5-mile speedway, preparing themselves for Speedweeks, particularly the February 26 Daytona 500.
At the conclusion of Thursday's opening day session, NASCAR notified teams it will increase the size of the restrictor plates to 15/16 of an inch and reduce the size of the front grille opening by one inch on each side. The sanctioning body also announced it will ban communications between drivers on their car radios during the race in an effort to break up the two-car tandems.
"In what we saw on the racetrack [Thursday], the ability to react from our side and from the teams' side to make adjustments and adapt to those adjustments I think is what we are seeing unfold in front of us," Helton said. "We've not seen anything that we dislike, but we know there are other things that we would like to see more of. I think the progress of the weekend is we're kind of in the middle of it right now."
NASCAR's latest modification to the restrictor plate and the grille openings made for speeds almost reaching 205 mph during Friday morning's session at Daytona. Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer led the way with identical lap speeds of 204.722 mph. Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola were second quickest at 203.142 mph each.
During the afternoon session, NASCAR gathered further data when as many as 20 cars ran in a draft.
"What we're looking for is just the ability to collect some data and put another check in the box if you will," Darby said. "We've seen a lot of time spent on qualifying laps and qualifying runs. We've seen a little bit of time spent with a two-car-tandem type of a push.
"The one snapshot we haven't been able to capture yet is what does 10 or 15 or 20 cars in an old-school style of draft look like. What kind of speeds do they generate, and what type of rpm do the engines run at. It's something we need, and it's a piece of the master equation if you will, as we close in on a package to come back to Speedweeks with."
Prior to this week's test, NASCAR collected data from test sessions at Talladega Superspeedway last October and then Daytona the following month.
NASCAR has also conducted test sessions for teams to familiarize themselves with the electronic fuel injection systems, which are replacing carburetors in the Sprint Cup cars for the 2012 season.
"I think NASCAR has handled this really well, and we've had a lot of time to develop the systems and get things going," said five-time series champion and 2006 Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson. "I don't have any fear, and I don't really sense any throughout the garage area. We're still learning the rules package as we go.
"With a day and a half to go, I'm not sure NASCAR has settled in with the package they want just yet, and we'll keep fine-tuning. From an overall aero package and plate package, there's still probably some adjusting that would take place I would guess. I really don't know. From a reliability standpoint of the [electronic fuel injection], I don't see any issues for anybody."
Teams will wrap up testing at Daytona on Saturday. NASCAR will then decide if further modifications to the cars are needed before the start of Speedweeks.
"It's a test, and we're all learning from the test, and when we get our information when we're done, we will go back to sit down with our groups and make decisions on how we come back to start Speedweeks," Pemberton said.
During last year's Speedweeks at Daytona, NASCAR made numerous changes to the cars, including the restrictor-plate size.
"When Speedweeks unfolds, many times we do make an adjustment when we're down here to address what the teams have done to make their improvements," Pemberton added. "We expect that out of them, and they expect that out of us. I think we're all geared up to come back and have a pretty good Speedweeks. I think this is one of the better test sessions that we have been at in a number of years."