Teams begin testing Daytona's new surface

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The repaving job was completed last week at Daytona International Speedway, so the track got back to work Wednesday with a test session for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Testing will also be held today.

All teams in the Sprint Cup Series were invited, but only a few will give up vacation time to get a jump on February's Daytona 500.

Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch , Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth are the only drivers from the 12 who made up the Chase for the Championship field who are attending. Others include Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Mark Martin , Brad Keselowski , Jamie McMurray , Juan Pablo Montoya , David Ragan , Paul Menard , Casey Mears , Todd Bodine , Brian Keselowski , Bobby Labonte , Reed Sorenson , Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith .

Busch and Keselowski are testing with a new front bumper approved for Dodge in 2011. Bayne is working with Wood Brothers Racing. Bill Elliott moves from Wood Brothers to the No. 09 Chevrolet at Phoenix Racing.

Ragan already has been on the new track after running a few laps in a passenger car a week ago.

"Daytona is going to be very smooth -- three- or four-wide racing now," he said. "It's going to be a different mentality than we have thought about there in the past. Daytona has always been about handling and managing your tires, but it's all going to be about speed."

Every team is expected to return to Daytona for another test session Jan. 20-22.

CHAMPIONSHIP MATH: Jimmie Johnson continued to master the Chase for the Championship playoff system with his fifth consecutive title.

But under the old point system, Johnson would have been a distant second to Kevin Harvick .

The top 12-ranked drivers after 26 races move into the 10-race Chase. A different point standing is used in the final 10 races.

Johnson accumulated the most points during the playoffs, beating Harvick by 21 points. But if you add the first 26 races, Harvick would have won the championship by 285 points.

Harvick earned the second-most points during the Chase, while Denny Hamlin was third at 1,523. Harvick, however, finished third overall in the final standings.

Mark Martin earned the most points during the playoffs of non-Chase drivers. He was fifth-best during the final 10 races, while Joey Logano , another non-playoff driver, was sixth-best.

PIT STOPS: The NASCAR Hall of Fame has fallen well short of expectations. The new exhibit that opened last May in Charlotte, N.C., is projected to lose about $1.3 million in its first year, according the Charlotte Business Journal . The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority anticipated a profit of $1.1 million in its first fiscal year. In response, the hall is expected to cut $4.1 million from his 2011 operating budget ... Scott Speed filed a $6.5 million breach-of-contract suit against Red Bull Racing after the team fired him last week.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.


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