Daytona Testing 2004

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.- - Jeff Gordon took to the track at Daytona International Speedway for a three-day test session from January 13-15. New rules instituted by NASCAR during the off-season allowed for a larger opening in the restrictor plate which produced higher speeds. The fastest laps in testing in 2003 were in the 183 mile per hour range. However, in 2004 the fast laps exceeded 187 miles per hour. Along with Gordon, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, and Terry Labonte participated in the test session. The cars were decked out in the "standard" primer gray for testing, with the Hendrick Motorsports 20th Anniversary logo on the hood. Though Rick Hendrick fielded a race team in 1984, the race team was a partnership with C.K. Spurlock and was known as "All-Star Racing." The 1985 season was technically the first year of existence for Hendrick Motorsports.

Daytona Testing Photos: Jeff chats with Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears | Jeff explains things to Brian Vickers
Strapping in | Ready for a run | Car 24a on track | Jimmie Johnson in the corner
Jimmie chats with Jeff | Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers | Back in the saddle | The new 'do

Fastest lap recorded by each driver during mock qualifying runs during pre-season testing. Includes driver name, car number, time, speed, and date of the lap.

1. Ricky Rudd, No. 21 Ford, 47.753 seconds, 188.470 mph, 1/14
2. John Andretti, No. 1 Chevrolet, 47.822, 188.198, 1/14
3. Ken Schrader, No. 49t Dodge, 47.925, 187.793, 1/15
4. Michael Waltrip, No. 15 Chevrolet, 47.941, 187.731, 1/8
5. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48a Chevrolet, 47.941, 187.731, 1/14
6. Elliott Sadler, No. 38b Ford, 47.958, 187.664, 1/15
7. Sterling Marlin, No. 40 Dodge, 47.962, 187.649, 1/14
8. Jeff Gordon, No. 24a Chevrolet, 48.003, 187.488, 1/15
9. Casey Mears, No. 41t Dodge, 48.018, 187.430, 1/15
10. Dale Jarrett, No. 88a Ford, 48.019, 187.426, 1/8
11. Brendan Gaughan, No. 77a Dodge, 48.026, 187.398, 1/8
12. Bill Elliott, No. 91a Dodge, 48.047, 187.317, 1/14
13. Jeff Burton, No. 99a Ford, 48.101, 187.106, 1/15
14. Kyle Petty, No. 45b Dodge, 48.110, 187.071 1/14
15. Rusty Wallace, No. 2a Dodge, 48.114, 187.056, 1/15
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8b Chevrolet, 48.126, 187.009, 1/8
17. Greg Biffle, No. 16a Ford, 48.133, 186.982, 1/14
18. Kevin Lepage, No. 4a Chevrolet, 48.154, 186.900, 1/15
19. Brian Vickers, No. 25b Chevrolet, 48.158, 186.885, 1/15
20. Jeremy Mayfield, No. 19b Dodge, 48.173, 186.827, 1/8
21. Jamie McMurray, No. 42h Dodge, 48.173, 186.827, 1/8
22. Joe Nemechek, No. 01a Chevrolet, 48.192, 186.753, 1/8
23. Scott Riggs, No. 10b Chevrolet, 48.200, 186.722, 1/14
24. Ryan Newman, No. 12a Dodge, 48.205, 186.703, 1/13
25. Jeff Green, No. 43b Dodge, 48.206, 186.699, 1/8
26. Robby Gordon, No. 31a Chevrolet, 48.269, 186.455, 1/15
27. Dave Blaney, No. 23a Dodge, 48.272, 186.443, 1/15
28. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet, 48.279, 186.416, 1/8
29. Bobby Labonte, No. 18a Chevrolet, 48.308, 186.305, 1/15
30. Jimmy Spencer, No. 7b Dodge, 48.336, 186.197, 1/15
31. Ricky Craven, No. 32a Chevrolet, 48.344, 186.166, 1/8
32. Derrike Cope, No. 50a Dodge, 48.347, 186.154, 1/15
33. Terry Labonte, No. 5a Chevrolet, 48.369, 186.070, 1/15
34. Ward Burton, No. 0b Chevrolet, 48.518, 185.498, 1/8
35. Dave Blaney, No. 22a Dodge, 48.531, 185.448, 1/8
36. Mark Martin, No. 6b Ford, 48.562, 185.330, 1/8
37. Kasey Kahne, No. 9b Dodge, 48.602, 185.178, 1/8
38. Kurt Busch, No. 97a Ford, 48.611, 185.143, 1/8
39. Mike McLaughlin, No. 20b Chevrolet, 48.620, 185.109, 1/8
40. Johnny Sauter, No. 30a Chevrolet, 48.624, 185.094, 1/14
41. Matt Kenseth, No. 17b Ford, 48.659, 184.961, 1/8
42. Tony Raines, No. 74a Chevrolet, 48.840, 184.275, 1/15
43. Tony Stewart, No. 20b Chevrolet, 48.852, 184.230, 1/7
44. Scott Wimmer, No. 22a Dodge, 48.934, 183.921, 1/6
45. Joe Ruttman, No. 09a Dodge, 48.966, 183.801, 1/14


The final day of pre-season testing began with a surprising development as Jimmie Johnson spun entering turn three and wrecked his primary car. Johnson, who turned the fastest laps in the Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning sessions, slid up the track and made contact with the wall just as he was coming to speed in car #48a. Johnson said he hit fluid entering the turn on his first lap. "If you look back there, there are shadows on the track (and) maybe the track is just wet, especially in the shadows-- but without a doubt there is something on the track that knocked out our good racecar," Johnson said. "You just don't spin out here-- especially in qualifying trim." He practiced in 48b for the remainder of the session, but was clearly dejected at losing the car he intended to run in the Daytona 500. "I'm bummed out for the guys," Johnson said. "That was our primary racecar and we were just trying to work on a couple more little things and take it home. We were going to quit early today and take it home and clean it up for the race." Things change.

The afternoon solo-session ended at 3 pm as a drafting session was held in the late-afternoon. Despite a poor solo performance on the track, the Richard Childress Racing cars of Robby Gordon and Johnny Sauter shot to the top of the charts in the drafting session with laps in the 190 mile per hour range.

Thursday afternoon speeds (solo)
Ken Schrader, #49t Dodge, 47.925 sec, 187.793 mph
Jeff Gordon, #24a Chevrolet, 48.003, 187.488
John Andretti, #1 Chevrolet, 48.018, 187.430
Casey Mears, #41t Dodge, 48.018, 187.430
Jimmie Johnson, #48b Chevrolet, 48.035, 187.363
Ricky Rudd, #21 Ford, 48.043, 187.332
Bill Elliott, #91a Dodge, 48.051, 187.301
Jeff Burton, #99a Ford, 48.101, 187.106
Kyle Petty, #45b Dodge, 48.110, 187.071
Rusty Wallace, #2a Dodge, 48.114, 187.056
Elliott Sadler, #38b Ford, 48.116, 187.048
Kevin Lepage, #4a Chevrolet, 48.154, 186.900
Brian Vickers, #25b Chevrolet, 48.158, 186.885
Robby Gordon, #31a Chevrolet, 48.269, 186.455
Sterling Marlin, #40 Dodge, 48.289, 186.378
Greg Biffle, #16 Ford, 48.292, 186.366
Bobby Labonte, #18a Chevrolet, 48.308, 186.305
Jimmy Spencer, #7b Dodge, 48.336, 186.197
Derrike Cope, #50a Dodge, 48.347, 186.154
Terry Labonte, #5a Chevrolet, 48.369, 186.070

Thursday morning speeds
Elliott Sadler, #38b Ford, 47.958 sec, 187.664 mph
Ricky Rudd, #21 Ford, 47.986, 187.555
John Andretti, #No. 1 Chevrolet, 48.127, 187.005
Ken Schrader, #49t Dodge, 48.160, 186.877
Casey Mears, #41t Dodge, 48.221, 186.641
Sterling Marlin, #40 Dodge, 48.228, 186.614
Jeff Gordon, #24a Chevrolet, 48.251, 186.525
Dave Blaney, #23a Dodge, 48.272, 186.443
Rusty Wallace, #2a Dodge, 48.279, 186.416
Jeff Burton, #99a Ford, 48.287, 186.386
Brian Vickers, #25b Chevrolet, 48.290, 186.374
Bobby Labonte, #18a Chevrolet, 48.323, 186.247
Greg Biffle, #16a Ford, 48.352, 186.135
Bill Elliott, #91a Dodge, 48.357, 186.116
Terry Labonte, #5a Chevrolet, 48.372, 186.058
Robby Gordon, #31a Chevrolet, 48.414, 185.897
Derrike Cope, #50a Dodge, 48.415, 185.893
Kyle Petty, #45b Dodge, 48.440, 185.797
Scott Riggs, #10a Chevrolet, 48.514, 185.513
Ryan Newman, #12a Dodge, 48.588, 185.231
Kevin Lepage, #4a Chevrolet, 48.626, 185.086
Jimmy Spencer, #7b Dodge, 48.803, 184.415
Jimmie Johnson, #48b Chevrolet, 48.827, 184.324


For the second day of testing, Gordon once again turned laps in cars 24a and 24b. Car 24a was the quickest of the two, turning the second fastest lap overall in the morning session. The laps were mock qualifying laps, devoid of the draft.

Wednesday afternoon speeds
Ricky Rudd, #21 Ford, 47.753 sec, 188.470 mph
John Andretti, #1 Chevrolet, 47.822, 188.198
Jimmie Johnson, #48a Chevrolet, 47.941, 187.731
Sterling Marlin, #40 Dodge, 47.962, 187.649
Ken Schrader, #49t Dodge, 48.022, 187.414
Bill Elliott, #91a Dodge, 48.047, 187.317
Jeff Gordon, #24a Chevrolet, 48.082, 187.180
Jeff Burton, #99a Ford, 48.115, 187.052
Greg Biffle, #16a Ford, 48.133, 186.982
Casey Mears, #41t Dodge, 48.180, 186.800
Elliott Sadler, #38a Ford, 48.183, 186.788
Scott Riggs, #10b Chevrolet, 48.200, 186.722
Brian Vickers, #25b Chevrolet, 48.210, 186.683
Kyle Petty, #45b Dodge, 48.212, 186.676
Kevin Lepage, #4a Chevrolet, 48.240, 186.567
Rusty Wallace, #2a Dodge, 48.279, 186.416
Ryan Newman, #12b Dodge, 48.342, 186.174
Bobby Labonte, #18a Chevrolet, 48.389, 185.993
Terry Labonte, #5a Chevrolet, 48.425, 185.854

Wednesday morning speeds
#48a, Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 48.026 sec, 187.398 mph
#24a, Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 48.048, 187.313
#21, Ricky Rudd, Ford, 48.057, 187.278
#41t, Casey Mears, Dodge, 48.211, 186.679
#1, John Andretti, Chevrolet, 48.215, 186.664
#91a, Bill Elliott, Dodge, 48.308, 186.305
#49t, Ken Schrader, Dodge, 48.311, 186.293
#2a, Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 48.325, 186.239
#12a, Ryan Newman, Dodge, 48.379, 186.031
#40, Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 48.411, 185.908
#38a, Elliott Sadler, Ford, 48.429, 185.839
#45b, Kyle Petty, Dodge, 48.496, 185.582
#18a, Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 48.516, 185.506
#4a, Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, 48.517, 185.502
#25b, Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 48.527, 185.464
#16a, Greg Biffle, Ford, 48.533, 185.441
#10b, Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 48.572, 185.292
#99a, Jeff Burton, Ford, 48.612, 185.139
#5, Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 48.637, 185.044


Gordon took to the track in cars 24a and 24b during the session. The weather was ideal for January-- sunny skies and temperatures in the 70 degree range. Gordon was sporting a buzzed haircut, reminiscent of the Marines to a degree.

Tuesday Interview with Jeff Gordon

(on the haircut) "It was the off season and I was bored... I don't know. I don't have a good story for it. I saw it somewhere on somebody and wondered what I'd look like. The only thing is that I kinda liked it so I trimmed it down one more time. I'm going to grow it back for the season."

(on being at the track) "It's good to get back in the car. It's been a while. After a short off-season it's still exciting to get back down here (Daytona). This is my 12th time testing here. I have a lot of memories. It's an awesome place. Fortunately we have had two wins here. It was a good day for us. The car is driving great. The speed wasn't awesome when we nloaded but we just gained on it all day long. By the end of the day I felt like we were pretty close to where we need to be. We always want to be a little faster and we've got two more days to work on it. We're really looking forward to getting back down here for the Daytona 500 and getting the season started. The team showed that look in their eye all winter long. We didn't lose anybody. We just added in some areas where we felt we needed to make ourselves stronger. We're looking forward to putting that out on the race track."

What areas would you like to improve upon this year?
"Fuel mileage and our pit crew. We've got a lot of good guys on there but one was just sort of a fill in. We knew that was a position we needed to fill and we did. They've been awesome in their practices and I think we're going to be solid there. We're always trying to improve performance of the race cars and the horsepower and try not to take away from that fuel mileage that was so important last year. The tires are going to help with that but I think fuel mileage and track position are still doing to be very important. At the end of the year, Robbie Loomis and I sat down and analyzed pretty much every race. All in all I thought we did a great job. We just had a few things happen to us. A few of the small things were self-induced, but the majority of the things that kept us out of the championship were things we really couldn't control. We've had a lot of good luck as a team for many years. Last year just wasn't our year. I'm hoping that the chemistry and hard work will make it our year."

How was your off-season vacation?
"I went to the Bahamas over New Years and found this incredible dive site. They actually sink ships out there and create dives. They also do a shark dive. Jimmie Johnson and his girlfriend were with us. I took Jimmie on his first dive and he was surrounded by about 15 or 20 reef sharks. He doesn't scare easily but I think he was pretty nervous (laughs). It was quite an experience and a lot of fun. I enjoyed it."

Discuss the new testing policy
"We made a test schedule when we first started hearing about a possible point system change, I thought it was just something being considered. Everybody thought it was crazy and that it would never happen. Now, we are re-evaluating our test schedule. Here (Daytona) and Vegas are for sure no matter what. But we've got some plans for the middle of the season on the off-weekends that we'll probably end up changing and making sure we have some saved for the later of the season. Those races have now turned into very important races. How you come out of those is going to determine the championship whether you're 10th in points or first in points. It's really anybody's game.

Is there a track where you feel you need to test?
"New Hampshire-- we're in good shape if we just get better fuel mileage. Dover-- we need to make a few improvements but it is usually a good track for us. We haven't competed for the win there. Talladega-- I feel like we had a chance at winning that race the last time we were there. Kansas-- not bad. Charlotte-- we were the best we've ever been the last time we were there. With my teammate wearing everybody out there, I think we're going to be fine there. We might test there though. Martinsville-- I think we're okay. Atlanta-- is hit or miss. Sometimes we go there and run like Jack The Bear and sometimes we go there and I can't hit it. One of the reasons I don't like to test at Atlanta is because the race is usually won in any number of those grooves. When you go there to test, it's right around the bottom. You can maybe work on your qualifying and I certainly need work on that at Atlanta. Phoenix-- we've tested there the last two years so why not test there again. Darlington-- I don't believe in testing at Darlington. I think it's a waste. I don't think you can learn anything. I can't remember the last time we tested at Darlington. Homestead-- we finished top five there but we weren't a top five car. It's definitely one we're going to consider. If you do a Homestead test, it might help you for Atlanta and Charlotte also. One of those three tracks is probably going to be on our hit list."

On team chemistry
"I believe in chemistry. You either have it or you don't have it. A lot of people are quick to make decisions but do they make them for the right reasons? A lot of times when I've analyzed some problems we've run into as a team, I didn't really think it was any one person's fault. If so, we're going to make a change in that area. To me, when we make decisions for team anagers or crew chiefs and key people, the first thing I look for is chemistry between me and that person and how we communicate. Once you get that part, the fundamentals of how the car works, and chassis adjustments and pit strategy go along with that. Pit strategy has changed a lot over the past couple of years. We've all had to adjust to it. I don't know if we've been on the cutting edge of that during the past year. But I think we've learned how to do it better."

On the aero rules changes
"Chicago, Kansas City, and fast smooth race tracks, they haven't gone far enough. It's still going to be tough to pass. Track position is still going to be important. On the flip side, at Darlington and Rockingham and tracks that are really worn out, it might be the opposite. We might not have as good racing because we don't have as much grip. I'm hoping it's just a step into it and hopefully they're open to what the drivers and teams and engineers have to say about it. And then we can grow from there and keep going in steps to maybe getting a little bit more downforce out of the car. It could be a balance issue too. It might not just be off the rear spoiler. We might need to also go to the front a little bit. And maybe the tires aren't soft enough. But then you get into construction and durability issues with Goodyear. You've got to make sure that that side is matching up with what else we have out there. If the tire doesn't wear out, the tire doesn't wear out. It doesn't matter if you don't have as much downforce. What's happening is that you've got a lot of these young engineers coming in and they only know one way. Basically these are 500-mile sprint races. You run as hard as you can every single lap. The car doesn't give up. Really, the only reason cars give up now is because the air pressure builds up in the tire - not because the tire wears out (other than maybe at Darlington). The way I was brought into this sport back in 1993 was that you basically dropped the green (flag) and you did everything you could possibly do not to wreck for about the first 15 or 20 laps as the fuel burned off and the weight changed and all of a sudden your car came to life. You worked so hard for the last half of a run and that's really where you made up your time. Nowadays, it's almost better to be good in the first half of the run and don't worry about the last half. If you get track position, guys usually can't get by you anyway. So it's just a totally different philosophy. I'd like to get back to that. But at the same time, I've been working hard for the last couple of years to get used to the way we're doing it now. As soon as I get that part figured out, we're going to have to start doing it again. But at least I've had that experience of doing it that way. And it is just working yourself out of it. Sometimes it just takes time. I'd like to get back to that. I think that having the cars a little bit more difficult to drive and having a natural mechanical set-up in the car means more. It would be great. I'd like that. But at the same time, we've learned so much more through shocks and springs and sway bars since1993, it might never be like that no matter what they do to downforce and the tires."

Discuss the new carbon fiber seat
"Hendrick Motorsports has been working on a carbon seat for about a year. Gary DeHart is heading up the program. They've got a beautiful seat. They've got a headrest as well. But I'm pretty particular on how I use my headrest. It's a little bit different than some of the other drivers. I have a full carbon seat but I have the Aluminum headrest. But it's really beefed up - a really strong Aluminum headrest. It's not as good as the carbon, but it's the next best thing. I hope to have the carbon one down the road. The difference with the carbon seat is that it's somewhat shaped like a LaJoie seat where most of the support is in the shoulders with very little rib support. I've driven a butler seat for so long that I've always had rib support and I don't know how to do it any other way. It's just more of a feel in the car that I like. We added a little to this seat, but I think I need a little bit more. But I really like it a lot. I'm definitely going to run it here at Daytona. I'm going to test it in Las Vegas two weeks from now. If I like it there I'm going to start running it as many places as possible."

What are your thoughts about Brian Vickers?
"I've definitely gotten to know Brian. I'm really impressed with his ability on the race track and he's a very sharp kid off the track. He uses his head. I've always said that what makes a great driver is a smart driver. If you get to this point, you usually have a lot of talent. You start separating yourself when you can analyze things in a split second. That's what I see in him. We're really excited to have him on board. I think it's important - especially for guys like me. I hate to consider myself a veteran, but I've been in the sport a long time and I'm the guy who's been at Hendrick Motorsports the longest. I like young guys coming up. I can learn from them and hopefully they can learn from me. It makes all of us better. We've had Jimmie Johnson for the last couple of years and now we have Brian Vickers. We've got a lot of great things happening and I think he's got a bright future. Everyone on the #25 car is really excited to have him."

Discuss the rookie class of 2004
"It just really depends on the team and equipment that's behind them. They're all very talented drivers. Scott Riggs is a guy that's got a lot of experience. He's got a chance at it. Sauter did a great job toward the end of last year as well. It's hard to say how Brendan (Gaughan) will do. He's only driven the Trucks and they're a lot different than Busch and Cup cars. But he's surprised a lot of people with how well he's done."

Will you look at things differently when the points system is officially revised?
"The competition is still the competition. We're racing against the best guys and the best teams. You still have to do your job extremely well and better than everybody else to win it. I don't think it should take away from the championship. But how you go about it will definitely change. What I do at a road course is maybe going to mean something toward getting in the top 10 in points but it's not going to mean anything toward getting the championship in those last 10 races. That's the only problem that I have with it. There are certain race tracks that might lock you in the top 10 but that takes away from what you did to win the championship if you win it or if you don't win it. I definitely think you're gong to test different and race different. You're probably going to make sure you're in the top 10. But in those last 10 races, you're going to see a lot of risk-taking going on to win that deal."

Chad Knaus, crew chief, #48 Lowe's Chevrolet: "(The Hendrick teams) got in pretty early this morning and we quarantined off the whole garage (garage area C). We have room to spread out so it's nice. It's a good thing the way the Hendrick teams are working together right now. Whenever we get an opportunity to share information and work with one another, it's only going to help us."

Tuesday afternoon speeds
#48a, Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 47.991, 187.535
#1, John Andretti, Chevrolet, 47.996, 187.516
#91a, Bill Elliott, Dodge, 48.048, 187.313
#21, Ricky Rudd, Ford, 48.059, 187.270
#49t, Ken Schrader, Dodge, 48.185, 186.780
#24a, Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 48.187, 186.772
#12a, Ryan Newman, Dodge, 48.205, 186.703
#40, Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 48.211, 186.679
#25b, Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 48.254, 186.513
#2a, Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 48.267, 186.463
#41t, Casey Mears, Dodge, 48.290, 186.374
#45b, Kyle Petty, Dodge, 48.359, 186.108
#5, Terry Labonte,Chevrolet, 48.443, 185.785
#10b,Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 48.447, 185.770
#38b,Elliott Sadler, Ford, 48.490, 185.605
#31a,Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 48.495, 185.586
#99a, Jeff Burton, Ford, 48.527, 185.464
#18a, Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 48.548, 185.384
#4, Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, 48.649, 184.999
#16a, Greg Biffle, Ford, 48.666, 184.934
#7b, Jimmy Spencer, Dodge, 48.725, 184.710

Tuesday morning speeds
#1, John Andretti, Chevrolet, 48.117 sec, 187.044 mph
#49t, Ken Schrader, Dodge, 48.201, 186.718
#21, Ricky Rudd, Ford, 48.251, 186.525
#41t, Casey Mears, Dodge, 48.271, 186.447
#48a, Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 48.285, 186.393
#24a, Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 48.481, 185.640
#2a, Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 48.493, 185.594
#25b, Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 48.505, 185.548
#18b, Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 48.510, 185.529
#10b, Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 48.538, 185.422
#91a, Bill Elliott, Dodge, 48.541, 185.410
#31a, Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 48.573, 185.288
#5, Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 48.605, 185.166
#45b, Kyle Petty, Dodge, 48.616, 185.124
#4a, Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, 48.625, 185.090
#40, Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 48.637, 185.044
#50a, Derrike Cope, Dodge, 48.639, 185.037
#16a, Greg Biffle, Ford, 48.683, 184.869
#12a, Ryan Newman, Dodge, 48.712, 184.759
#38a, Elliott Sadler, Ford, 48.714, 184.752
#7b, Jimmy Spencer, Dodge, 48.828, 184.320
#30a, Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 48.958, 183.831
#99, Jeff Burton, Ford, 48.962, 183.816

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