The best story from testing at Daytona involves a beard and a bet.
Matt Kenseth was among the invited guests for a New Year's Eve '70s party at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s house. In the heat of the festive moment, Junior bet Kenseth he couldn't keep a beard he had grown — a Fu Manchu thing, in honor of the party — when everybody reconvened at Daytona for testing.
Game on, Kenseth said.
The boys bet $2,500.
Only Kenseth came to Daytona with a lame three-day stubble and tried to pass that off as a "beard."
"Pay up," Junior said.
"It looked really stupid, but I hate losing any money and he kept upping the money and upping the money, so finally I said OK, but I checked first to make sure I didn't have any photos or anything," Kenseth said. "And then I got a call, oh, yeah, Monday. 'By the way, you've got to do a photo here and you've got to do this interview and do a photo shoot there.' So anyway, I guess I lost. Although this technically should count. It's three days old, two days."
Um, not really, Earnhardt said.
"Y'all can remind him that he owes me $2,500 because he had a beard that night and I bet him he couldn't keep it through the test, and we actually sent a few texts back and forth to confirm the bet, and he shaved his beard," he said. "I told him to go to the bank, but maybe he forgot. I want my $2,500."
At last check, Kenseth had vowed to pay up. And Earnhardt was going to use the money to take his team to dinner.
But most drivers at the testing sessions didn't seem to mind chasing greater speed, and NASCAR officials didn't seem overly concerned about the higher speeds.