Significant Gains: Two-Day Session Helps Teams Prepare For 2008 Pocono Events Dover-Bound: Truex Ready For 'Home Track' Return LONG POND, Pa. (May 28, 2008) -- This week's two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test sessions at Pocono Raceway may...
Significant Gains: Two-Day Session Helps Teams Prepare For 2008 Pocono
Dover-Bound: Truex Ready For 'Home Track' Return
LONG POND, Pa. (May 28, 2008) -- This week's two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test sessions at Pocono Raceway may have had the look of a science experiment, but don't be fooled, participants said.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, lap after lap meant discovery after discovery -- all crucial for the June 8 debut of NASCAR's new car in the Pocono 500.
"We've picked up some speed here before lunch, found a few things that made our car go a little faster," said Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) during a Wednesday visit to the Pocono media center. "But still it's a tough place, you know, to make the consistent laps or anything like that. It does one thing one lap, one thing the next.
"But we're learning some. We definitely probably needed this test to get ourselves going a little bit better, catch up to the rest of the cars here."
Pocono's 2.5-mile triangular layout is one of the series' most challenging -- three distinct turns coupled with long straightaways. This year marks the first new-car events at tracks longer than 1.5-miles (teams ran the new car in 16 of 36 events last season), which underscores the importance of this week's test.
"The key to winning at Pocono is to be really good in one turn, and to keep working on the other turns to get them as good as you can," said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby.
After thunderstorms washed out the final hours of Tuesday's session, Wednesday dawned sunny and clear, if unusually cool, and the combination of a fast track and good conditions offered immediate results for some teams.
Darby said those that struggled with splitter contact and negotiating some turns during Tuesday's session may have found their answers overnight.
"The rain actually may have been a blessing in disguise because it gave all the engineers extra time to study the data," he said, "and looking at times today, the whole garage has picked up speed."
"It's been good for us to test," said Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge), who also visited with media Wednesday. "We made a long run today, a 16-lap run, and felt pretty good throughout the whole run. Just keep working on it, trying to figure things out -- messing with brakes. Brakes can be pretty big here. So just kind of trying to hit on everything we can for these couple days."
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), another media-center visitor on Wednesday, said his team had hit on several things they liked, thanks to crew chief Kevin Manion's detailed test plan.
"One of the things I like about this car is it seems like a driver and a crew chief can get in there and work on it a little bit more than they used to," Truex said of the new car. "The old car, if your body wasn't just right, you couldn't run, no matter what springs and shocks you had in there. Now everybody's got the same thing. It just seems like you can get in there and work on it a little bit more with the shocks and springs, mechanical stuff that we grew up doing. It seems like it's more fun to work on."
Back To Dover For Truex ... This week's Pocono test served as a segue to Sunday's Best Buy 400 Benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway, of which Martin Truex Jr. is the defending champion. Last year's June win at Dover was Truex's first in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. It also took place at his "home" track -- only several hours from his native Mayetta, N.J.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Truex said Wednesday. "It doesn't seem like it's been a year since we won our first race. Time to get back in there and win another one. We've been close a few times since then.
"It just hasn't all worked out."
On-track luck hasn't fallen in Truex's favor recently. After a strong start to 2008, he's 15th in the series standings heading to Dover, 163 points out of 12th, the cut-off spot for Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility.
"We've had some really great race cars just about every week," Truex said, citing an accident in last Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 while running in the top 15. "Like last week, seems like something always happens to take a good finish away from us. So hopefully we'll be able to go to Dover, turn that around, get our season back on track. Climb back into that top 12."
Pit Stops ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP/National Guard Chevrolet) was fastest in Wednesday's morning session (167.302 mph/53.795 seconds), followed by Travis Kvapil (No. 28 Yates Racing Ford) at 167.066 mph/53.871 seconds. Kvapil's Yates Racing teammate, David Gilliland (No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com Ford), was fastest in Tuesday's rain-shortened session, at 164.408 mph/54.72 seconds.