Pocono Raceway is about to conclude two days of Goodyear Tire testing.
The newly completed repave project along with the shortened race length – from 500 to 400 miles – have offered drivers something to chat about. Day 2 of NASCAR Sprint Cup testing at Pocono Raceway just ended. Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne, led the way at 179.490 mph, fastest of the three test sessions. Jeff Gordon had earlier surpassed Kevin Harvick topping out a speed of 179 mph – Harvick was holding the top speed of 177.859 mph throughout the Goodyear Tire test. A.J. Allmendinger set the pace in the morning session at 177.190 mph – well ahead of the 175.380 mph fast lap Mark Martin recorded on Wednesday. A total of 41 cars tested today; yesterday 36 cars were on track.
Here’s what they are saying:
Over all, It’s FAST. It’s SMOOTH. Drivers are expecting some excitement on Sunday.
Last year’s Pocono 400 winner Jeff Gordon said crew chiefs can leave their notes at the shop. “I am definitely not thinking about being the defending champion of that race at all just because there is nothing to compare to with a repave,” said Gordon. Gordon also stated that he “…loves Pocono Raceway and didn’t want to see it repaved, but understands tracks have to do what they need to do… and happy that the track did a good job”
Needless to say, this was recorded before his last run which resulted in the fastest speed of the day – so far.
Is this weighing heavily on his mind? You better believe it is. Gordon’s 94 points behind current 10th-place Clint Bowyer but a single point outside the top 20 and “wild card” territory. Gordon also looks to become the fifth driver to reach 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top-10 finishes.
Jimmie Johnson said repaving shouldn’t be a radical departure from the past because the same kind of materials were used in both old and new asphalt.
“Normally, it’s an edgy race track regardless of the tire that you come with on a new repave,” said Johnson, whose two Pocono victories came in 2004. “It sounds like we didn’t have that [during the test] and Pocono made sure they used the same mix, the same asphalt that we were racing on.
Current points leader, Greg Biffle, who previously won at Pocono during the 2010 August race is looking forward to the new format and thinks the fans should too. “I think the racing being shortened to 400 miles will create some excitement with the fan,” said Biffle. “There will be more urgency to go and different strategy.”
“The race track is very fun in the sense of how they graded it and smoothed it out in different places,” said Denny Hamlin, a four-time winner at Pocono. “It’s still Pocono, but it drives very different than what it used to. You’re getting a feel of a lot of different race tracks here within the Pocono Raceway.
“You’re going to see massive dive bombs going into the corner trying to get position. My estimation – you’re going to see a lot of excitement,” Hamlin said.
Jeff Burton stated in the news conference that the repave didn’t change the characteristics of the Tricky Triangle and since repaving has improved through the years, Pocono Raceway created a smooth, fast racing surface.
NASCAR Managing Director of Competition and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby says the racing will improve as the weekend progresses and groove widens.
The final NASCAR Sprint Cup test session ends with the Top 10:
#5, #1, #55, #24, #27, #39, #22, #11, #31, #29
42 Cup teams took to the track during Thursday morning’s test session: The top 5: