DAYTONA BEACH — Ever since it introduced restrictor plates at its fastest tracks in the late 1980s, NASCAR has shied away from the 200 mph mark.
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said he recently approached series officials about the speeds because he was certain the cars would be slowed. He said he was surprised when NASCAR indicated it was comfortable over 200 mph.
Guess who led the way past 200 mph on Saturday?
Gordon and Kasey Kahne had the fastest speeds of the day, the third and final day of testing at Daytona International Speedway, with identical laps of 201.545 mph, covering the 2½-mile superspeedway in 44.655 seconds in the morning session. Gordon led the afternoon test at 200.562 mph. Kahne also cleared 200 mph in the afternoon as did AJ Allmendinger and Brad Keselowski.
"It's embedded in our minds we can't go out there over 200 mph in race conditions," Gordon told the Associated Press last week. "Somehow it's become accepted, and I think that's a good thing. It's very comfortable. It's extremely comfortable."
Two-car tandem racing has helped push practice speeds up — last year's pole speed for the Daytona 500 was 186.089 mph by Dale Earnhardt Jr. — but a lot could change between now and the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26.
"Once we leave here, obviously there will be a lot of energy spent on looking through all of the data that we've collected this week," Sprint Cup series director John Darby told NASCAR.com on Saturday. "I would like to have the final rules package out as quickly as we can just to make sure the teams have enough time to react to everything."
Slight modifications were made during Saturday's runs to try to break up those tandems that have become a dominant factor at restrictor-plate tracks Daytona and Talladega.
"The outcome, the proof in the pudding of the outcome will be the Daytona 500," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "I think the progress of the weekend is going in the right direction, but the biggest thing is I think from our perspective is the level of interest in being sure that we all get the racing right."
STAYING PUT: Most teams showed up at Daytona for the three days of testing but some opted to sit this round out.
One of the teams that did not appear was JTG Daugherty Racing, which fields the No. 47 driven by former series champion Bobby Labonte.
"As important as the Daytona test is, we have a lot of time there in February, and we'll get more practice there than anywhere else we go," Labonte told NASCAR.com. "I feel like we should be able to miss the test and still be in pretty good shape when we get down there for the race. Time spent in the shop this week will be more valid for us to prepare our cars — not just at Daytona, but several weeks after that."
UP NEXT: The track now turns its attention to road racing with the 24 Hours of Daytona. The endurance classic is Jan. 28-29.