DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daytona International Speedway's new racing surface will receive its NASCAR christening next January during a three-day Sprint Cup Series test.
The session, known as NASCAR Preseason Thunder, is scheduled for Jan. 20-22. Jan. 23 is the rain date.
The 2011 edition will help teams acclimate to the new pavement, plus speed their preparation for the 53rd Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 -- the series' traditional season opener.
The re-paving project -- only the second in track history and first since 1978 -- began immediately after the Cup Series event on July 3.
"This allows everyone an equal opportunity to work on their setups and get everything in order leading up to Speedweeks and the running of the Daytona 500," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "Additionally, it gives the teams the chance to get accustomed to the new pit road and the added run-off areas on the backstretch. We're excited about the new surface and believe it will only enhance the racing experience at Daytona."
All sessions begin at 9 a.m. ET and end at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Each includes a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m. ET.
Fans seeking to rev up their new year can do so at the Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona -- the companion event to the January test. Along with watching track activity from Daytona's Sprint FanZone, fans can enjoy two Fan Fest sessions -- from 5-9 p.m. ET on Jan. 21 and from 5-7 p.m. ET on Jan. 22.
Driver question-and-answer and autograph sessions are planned. Tickets for the Preseason Thunder Fan Fest are $20. Fans also can watch each day's testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands.
"We're looking forward to welcoming the stars of the Cup Series to our new racing surface in January," Daytona president Joie Chitwood said. "Preseason Thunder will be an important test session for all teams as they acquire data from their first laps on the new asphalt at Daytona.
"The test is also going to serve as a great opportunity for fans to interact with their favorite drivers in advance of Speedweeks 2011 and the 53rd annual Daytona 500."
Teams from the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series are expected to receive extra practice time during Speedweeks to get acclimated to the track's new surface.