No Daytona testing? No big deal

Published 8:14 pm Monday, January 19, 2009

The NFL wouldn’t start a season without training camp. Major League Baseball wouldn’t begin without spring training.

But NASCAR is going without its usual “preseason” this year, and yet it really shouldn’t matter much.

NASCAR eliminated most testing on sanctioned tracks for 2009 to save teams money in a brutal economy. That means no Daytona testing, a January tradition.

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Goodyear tire tests are the only tests still allowed on tracks that host Sprint Cup races, and Texas Motor Speedway had one this week, with David Reutimann, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton and Travis Kvapil participating.

Losing Daytona testing won’t hurt most teams because it’s the same for everybody. Drivers don’t need to get in “driving shape,” and technical information about the cars can be gleaned from high-tech simulation.

That isn’t to say there isn’t some missing buzz. While testing rarely predicted the Daytona 500 winner, it often provided a glimpse as to who was going to be fast during Speed Weeks.

For example, last year’s testing correctly predicted that the Toyotas would be fast in competition.

HALF-PRICE 500 SEATS: Responding to a “10-15 percent drop” in demand, Daytona has cut ticket prices for next month’s Daytona 500 in certain areas of the backstretch grandstands from $99 to $55.

This time last year, Daytona was sold out for the 50th edition of the 500. About 120,000 seats have been sold for the Feb. 15 race.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to be in this position, but the entire entertainment industry is [hurting],” speedway president Robin Braig said.

“We saw Disney knock down their prices about a month ago. I think it really hit home when we saw the Miami Dolphins playoff game and there were empty seats there.”

Braig said the speedway also is working with some Daytona area hotels to get them to drop prices and reduce minimum-night stay requirements and will continue to provide free parking and allow food and beverages to be brought into the track.