Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dodges off to Slow Start at Daytona; Gordon Posts Fastest Lap as NASCAR Begins Testing for Feb. 20 Season Opener

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dodges off to Slow Start at Daytona; Gordon Posts Fastest Lap as NASCAR Begins Testing for Feb. 20 Season Opener

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE, The Times-Union

DAYTONA BEACH -- It wasn't surprising when Jeff Gordon posted the fastest lap Tuesday during the first of six testing days at the Daytona International Speedway.

What came as a surprise was the lack of speed from defending Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the entire Dodge camp.

Twenty-six teams started preparation for the season-opening race on Sunday, Feb. 20, by running single-car laps at the 2.5-mile raceway. The session will continue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Thursday.

The rest of the Nextel Cup Series teams will conduct tests next Tuesday.

Gordon's Chevrolet was clocked at 185.448 mph during the afternoon session. His car also was fastest in the morning.

"It's cool to be back," Gordon said. "The offseason flew by. I can't believe I'm already in the car. But things are going well. I felt like they were going to go well based on my talks with [crew chief] Robbie [Loomis] and the team and the work that's been going on with our speedway car and our motors and everything.

"Over the offseason we felt like we built a car that was a little bit better than the car we had here in July [for the Pepsi 400]. I felt pretty good about coming into today. So far it's going pretty well, and hopefully we can keep that going."

Earnhardt Jr.'s best lap was 183.329 mph, which made him 14th on the list.

Dodge came to Daytona with a new car. The car company dropped its Intrepid and replaced it with the new Charger, and the new car was slow getting up to speed.

There was only one Dodge among the top 10 speeds. Jeremy Mayfield's speed of 184.506 mph was fifth-fastest.

Dodges, however, made up seven of the 15 slowest speeds.

"When you come to these tests, sometimes people hide things," said Jamie McMurray, whose Dodge was 23rd-fastest at 182. …

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