Drivers set record times in Pocono test
Twenty-two of the 36 drivers who tested around the newly repaved Pocono Raceway on Wednesday afternoon broke the previous Sprint Cup qualifying record of 172.533 miles per hour. More testing is scheduled for Thursday as NASCAR gives teams two days to acquaint themselves with the 2.5-mile, three-sided track that will host a 160-lap, 400-mile race on Sunday afternoon.
"We're in for a really good race come Sunday,” said John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director. “Goodyear's done an excellent job at matching the tire to the new surface. Basically all the way up and down through the garage we've heard zero complaints which is a good feeling. It will only continue to get better throughout the weekend, because more of the racing surface gets rubbered in, grooves get wider and offer the ability to the competitors to turn into some multiple lane racing, especially through corners where it counts come Sunday. So we're pleased.”
Additionally, for the first time in the track's history, the race is scheduled for 400 miles, down from 500. That also will be the case for the second race at Pocono in August.
“They did a great job; [the] track was really nice and smooth [with] good grip,” said four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, a five-time winner at Pocono. “We have had some repaves where it is a handful and pretty slick. That was not the case at all today.”
“You never know what to expect when a race track gets paved,” said Jeff Burton. “This pavement is unbelievably just nice, smooth. The quality of racing is going to be improved a great deal. [But] it's still Pocono. It still has the same characteristics and the personality of Pocono, but just has more grip”
Mark Martin in a Toyota from Michael Waltrip Racing was fastest of those 22, at 175.380 mph. Penske Racing Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger was second-fastest at 175.029 mph, followed by Hendrick Motorsports star Jimmie Johnson in a Chevrolet at 174.808 mph, Kevin Harvick in a Richard Childress Racing Chevy at 174.686 mph and Kasey Kahne in a Hendrick Chevy at 174.578 mph. The balance of the top-10 in the noon-to-4 p.m. session were Greg Biffle in a Ford, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch in Toyotas, and Juan Pablo Montoya in a Chevy.
At 172.635 mph, Ford driver Aric Almirola was 22nd-fastest, but that speed still topped the previous track record. Regan Smith, Marcos Ambrose, Carl Edwards, Casey Mears and Joe Nemechek were drivers below the track record.
Teams will test again on Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon, then from 1-3:30 p.m.. The "official" NASCAR weekend begins on Friday, when Cup teams practice 12:30-1:55 p.m. and 3:30-5 p.m.. They'll qualify on Saturday morning at 11:10 a.m. and run the Pocono 400 on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. (EDT).