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NASCAR Cup drivers testing at Daytona

072810-NASCAR-Bobby-Labonte-PI_20100728142454_335_220

Bobby Labonte will join a host of drivers in working on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season in earnest today.

He'll be one of an expected 18 drivers participating in the Goodyear tire test on the newly repaved 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway with his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team.

The two-day test will allow the tire manufacturer to study its recommended tire for the upcoming Daytona 500.

"I received some pictures the other day of the track and it looks pretty smooth," Labonte said. "After visiting Talladega Superspeedway following its repaving, we are kind of expecting the same thing with the smoothness at Daytona ... It's going to be a little different just because of the bank angle."

Crew chief Frank Kerr says this test is great for the team as it tries to get a handle on any changes from the repaving - and to get on track with its new driver.

"The Goodyear tire test is a good way to get a jump on the new track surface and gather information for our engineering department," Kerr said. "Like Bobby, I've only seen pictures. It's an unknown. We'll shake the car down and then go out and make a lot of drafting runs over the course of two days. It's very beneficial for us on many levels."

Labonte has already tested with the team at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., and the mile-long trioval of Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla.

"Gresham was our first test together and then we went to Disney's track for a combined test with (Toyota Racing Development)," Kerr said. "We worked with E15 fuel and a new electric fuel injection motor combining a car test to continue building our relationship with Bobby. It went well and it was very productive. We gained a lot of knowledge from Bobby's vast experience with Cup engines. He gave good direction and we were also able to test some parts for next season.

"It was good to see him rejuvenated with this great opportunity with our team. We're going to give him every resource possible to get him back to Victory Lane."

Labonte, the 2000 series champion and winner of 21 races, says the team is laying a good foundation for the 2011 season with the offseason work.

"The past few tests have been really good and we can continue to build on that," Labonte added. "It's not like you are going to go to three tests and be like, 'OK, we are good.' But, it gives us an opportunity to spend a couple days on the track and figure out Daytona and also each other. So, when we unload at the race track in February we will know the steps we will take and the things we are going to go through to be successful - - and it will feel familiar."

Others expected to participate in the test include 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan, Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton, Casey Mears, Regan Smith, Reed Sorenson, Trevor Bayne, Todd Bodine and Brian Keselowski.