DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. says the track at the Daytona International Speedway is "real smooth" after the completion of a $20 million repaving project.
Earnhardt was the first driver on the track Wednesday as 20 cars participated in the first day of a two-day Goodyear tire test at the speedway, which underwent a massive facelift beginning July 5 in a move precipitated by a pothole between Turns 1 and 2 during the Daytona 500.
"They smoothed out all the bumps," Earnhardt said. "The track is real smooth. It's got a lot of grip. It reminds me exactly of what Talledega was like when they finished [repaving] it."
Clear skies, cool temperatures and a smooth surface greeted some of the top drivers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series at the first tire testing session at since the completion of the repaving project. By late morning, several hundred onlookers were seated in one of the grandstands and standing near a retaining fence to check out the new surface, as well as the drivers in action.
Most of the testing consisted of single-car laps, although there were moments when cars were bunched closer together.
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon came away convinced that the 2½-mile track, which was most recently paved over in 1978, would become more about speed and less about handling to the drivers.
"That's going to make for more exciting racing, more aggressive racing," said Gordon, who added that aggression would manifest itself in another way. "You'll be able to see us race three-wide here, lap after lap after lap."
The only incident of the day came when David Ragan sustained damage to the front quarter-panel of his Ford after losing control through the tri-oval. Testing will continue Thursday morning.