Testing at Daytona is not necessarily all about outright speed. No, the game is generally more about attention to detail and testing various systems of the vehicle to see what makes a difference.
Orleans Racing attacked the track one the first test session of 2006 with a very detailed list of objectives, organized by crew chief Tony “Rambo” Liberati. Rambo made it about halfway down his “to-do” list before the clock ran out on day one activities.
The session, which brought mixed results, gave Liberati and Orleans Racing’s staff of engineers plenty to think about over night before hitting the track for day number two of the three-day test.
The morning and early afternoon runs gave driver Brendan Gaughan the opportunity to shake down his #77 Dodge, with each successive change ordered by Rambo in single truck runs. These runs, which prove if a change improved or hurt the feel or speed of his Dodge, are one and two lap runs around Daytona’s 2.5-mile track.
“We’re learning a lot and are working hard,” Gaughan said of the effort. “We know that we’re not going to fix things over night. Our chassis are looking good but we have some body issues still. These are all new Hopkins front and rear clips but we’ve changed the way we do things and haven’t put new bodies on yet. The bodies we think still have a minor situation that’s going on with them that we need to address. This test is definitely showing that. They’re solid race cars.”
The late afternoon session gives the drivers the opportunity to see how their trucks will run in race trim --- in the draft. The packs of trucks that ran together would range from three all the way up to a dozen, or more, at times. It was during this late day session that Gaughan had himself a touch more excitement than a test session generally merits.
“The one thing I tend to prove a lot is that I am a cowboy!” Gaughan said smiling but wide-eyed after returning from the run that had him cocked sideways in a pack of traffic at the turn three and four end of the track. “One of my trucks is pretty evil --- it almost took out six trucks.”
The rest of the day went without incident, thankfully.
The Orleans Racing team will continue testing at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.