A new car. A new set of rules. A "new" way to race. Those are the challenges that NASCAR decided to bring us with the new racing season.
There were 33 of us drivers present for the second of eight weeks, formally known as the Hershey's Milk & Milkshakes Speedweeks at Daytona. For most, this was the first time they've been in a race car since the exciting championship finish last Noevember. For some, including me, we've been testing for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, which officially starts next Saturday.
I sat in the driver's meeting, along with my teammates Eric and Kiara. I was eagerly awaiting the start of the open testing session to see how NASCAR solved the two car tandems. I personally didn't have a problem with the tandems, as it gave us a chance to strategize more than we did normally at super speedways. But the fans absolutely hated it and demanded NASCAR to change it.
These fans better be so happy that we care about them enough to do this for them.
I would be the only one testing for my team, and manufacturer. A new team, Rookie Racing, took the three of us in for 2012, and took in the brand new manufacturer, Lycoia, until they closed shop.
I liked the cars for this year, as Lycoia brought us the Brute for the year. The car fit the body well, as the car had a sedan/coupe look to it, as the other manufactures did. They allowed me to design the cars around my sponsors for the year, as they did with Kiara and Eric. They looked pretty good in my opinion, but I only say that because I did them.
The drivers meeting ended, and we were due to run in an hour. I decided that now would be as good a time as ever to get my pre-race ritual started.
I listened to my choice of music before a race, Avenged Sevenfold and some of Vocaloid's hard rock creations. Put on my racing suit, and drank my selection of Gatorade's G1 drink.
I only had about fifteen minutes, so I climbed into the driver's seat and waited for any further words from my crew cheif.
"Alright kid," Scott, the aforementioned crew chief, said. "This is your first time drafting in these types of cars, so testing and practice will be extremely important. But, the RCR guys were thinking of getting a fifty lapper going, everybody else wants in on it. How about you?"
"Dude, you knew the answer before I was even strapped in the car." I told him.
"Atta boy. Alright, you're good to fire it up.
I switched on the start button and turned the ignition. The 800 horses roared to life in front of me. I felt the vibration of the engine within my seat, and couldn't help the grin that found its way to my face. I pulled out of the garage area to find a spot on the grid, which to my demise, happened to be in thirtieth. I tried to look at the positive side of the situation, which helped, I just didn't like that I was so far back.
We pulled out onto the track, at 85 miles an hour, for a quick pace lap. It seemed comforting, but we all knew that the comfort would soon disappear, along with most friendships we held off track when we got the green.
We came off of turn three. The pace car merged onto pit road. Everything went silent for what seemed like minutes.
"Green buddy! Green! Green! Green!" My spotter said.
I had to restrain myself rom slamming on the gas, as I didn't want to spin the tires. I gave a little bump to AJ Allmendinger, who started the row ahead of me, before we went into turn one. I tried not to be too hasty with my moves, as this was only a test, and we still had the rest of the lap before we reached our top speed.
Nemecheck didn't get the greatest start, as he held Bayne up, who started to my right, and I was able to get past him by the backstretch.
I got the message that I was clear to move to a different line, and did so, edging past the quarter panel of the 22, which allowed me to get past him through the third and fourth turn.
I pulled out of the turn alongside Casey Mears, trying to hang on to the bottom line behind Kurt Busch. I wasn't attached to him as there were still three car lengths between him and I.
By some major side draft, I was able to close the gap by turn one, and tag on to the bumper of the 51. I stuck with him for three laps, until he merged with the high side, and allowed me to get past him.
I held my position on the bottom, tagging with Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, and Joey Logano for a while until we got to the front of the field where we became single file (For the most part) from me, in 10th, to the leader in first.
"Alright, you got nine in front of ya, start picking them off." My spotter informed me.
"10-4. Do I have any steady partners?"
"Not any definite ones, just try to get below somebody and see if they go with you."
I took a good look at the line, it seemed that they went down the middle of the back and frontstretch, and then went to the bottom in the corners. I just needed to get a good run off of turns one and three to get the push to get under.
The cars started to become double file again, taking Joey to my left, opening up the bottom lane for me, and allowed me to catch on to Almirola once again.
I used the 43 to get up to Boywer, and used got by him to get to Regan Smith, who was partnering with the leader.
Our work together only lasted half a lap, as I was able to inch under him before we got into turn three.
I had to play the waiting game now, as I didn't want to shoot under Ryan Newman too quick without help.
"Logano! Inside!" The spotter yelled. Oh come on! My life in second can't be that short lived! I hoped that by side draft, I would be able to get back past him. That's a tall order considering the fact that I was on the outside with no help.
I got by him, but I got a false clear, and clipped the front of his car, which almost spun me out. But I regained composure without losing speed or position.
Now it's time to push.
I tried to get under Newman as quick as possible, with no avail, as every time I got out of a turn, he held too big of a gap for me to get under him.
I tried to get under the 39 for three and a half laps until I was finally undone before I could get to the lead. Aric was able to get under me with help, and left me defenceless on the high side until I fell in behind Denny Hamlin. That took me out of the lead fight for a while.
I tried to hug the bottom in turn three.
I clipped the front of Greg Biffle's car, which sent me into a 180, and hit the outside wall with the passenger side. I had no control over my steering, which started to drag me down the banking, right into a head-on collision with Brad Kesolowski. The impact of that sent the back of my car into the 51 of Busch, who in turn, drove us into the wall again, sending me spinning back down the banking to meet my door with my idol, Mark Martin.
It ended for me, as it did with the others, as I saw Brad Kesolowski get back on his wheels. I tried to get back to the pits, but I had no motor, and no control over my steering.
"Tell Biffle that I didn't know he was down there, because SOMEBODY didn't tell me."
" , Mike?" Scott said, reffering to my spotter. "You're fired."
"I had it coming. I know it."
I unhooked my belts, and took the mandatory trip to the infield care center. I got into the ambulance with Brad Kesolowski and Kurt Busch, and explained to them what happened. It was pretty common, due to an incident with Kevin Lepage at Talladega a couple years back.
After everything was checked out and I was released, I went over to talk to Biffle's crew chief to explain what happened, just in case Scott didn't get him the right message. He was very understanding, and said that there was no problems between the 80 and the 16.
I breathed a sigh of relief, as I went back to my box to watch Kevin Harvick win the race, while I rooted Greg on to a second place finish. It was a good race for the rest of the field, and a lot of enjoyment the rest of the field. But there was a lot of anger between the team, as we had to do some searching for a new spotter as of now.
But still, it was fun while it lasted.