DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 16, 2012) – Penske Racing recently completed the three-day NASCAR Cup Series Preseason Thunder test at Daytona International Speedway and the results were exciting as the teams prepare for the upcoming 54th running of the Daytona 500.
AJ Allmendinger will make his first start in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Challenger in the 2012 “Great American Race.” His fast lap of 43.965, or 204.708 miles per hour, came in the afternoon session of the second day of the test, and it was the 12th-fastest time recorded during the test. The lap was turned while pushing teammate Brad Keselowski in the two-car tandem draft around the 2.5-mile superspeedway. On that same lap, Keselowski laid down a lap of 43.964 seconds, or 204.722 miles per hour, in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. Keselowski’s lap placed him 11th-fastest overall.
“It was good to get out there and knock some of the rust off from over the holidays, especially with my new team,” said Allmendinger. “The No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge definitely had a lot of speed, especially in the two-car draft. I’m expecting a different rules package when we go back next month, but I think Brad and I will have great shots at winning another Daytona 500 for Penske Racing.”
NASCAR tinkered with several rules changes during Preseason Thunder, including various sizes of restrictor plates, grille openings and radiator pressure-relief valves, in an effort to eliminate the two-car draft that has become the norm in restrictor-plate racing over the last few seasons. Officials want to see more pack drafting that used to define the racing at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway.
“It was a great test for the Miller Lite Dodge,” said Keselowski. “AJ and I were able to log a lot of laps today and I feel good about our package for the 500. It’s getting harder to perform the two-car draft so maybe we’ll see some pack racing when we come back. I had a blast running in the pack today.”
NASCAR will continue to adjust the rules package to ensure the Daytona 500 is exciting for both the teams and fans.
“We’ve had a good test and gained a lot of information,” said NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton. “We know that when we come out of here, there will be some loose ends we have to tie up as we get all of our information together and come up with our final plans for Speedweeks. I can say that all in all everything is going according to plan.”
Qualifying for the 54th Daytona 500 will take place on Sunday, February 19, which will determine the front row only. The 41st annual duel races, which set the rest of the field, will be on Thursday, February 23. The Daytona 500 season-opening race will begin at 1 pm on Sunday, February 26.