Kevin Harvick Fastest In Charlotte Testing

Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Mike Mercurio/AR1.com

Kevin Harvick was the fastest among the 13 teams who participated in a two-day testing session at Charlotte Motor Speedway that wrapped up on Wednesday and gave teams the chance to shake down the new 2015 Sprint Cup rules package ahead the Sprint All Star race and Coca-Cola 600 that will be held here in May.

Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion, turned in a lap of 190.718 mph in the no. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet while Aric Almirola was second fastest with a lap 190.228 mph driving the no. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne (190.128 mph) was third, followed by Team Penske's Joey Logano (189.707 mph) and Jamie McMurray (188.877 mph), who was wheeling the no. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet normally driven by Kyle Larson.

The two-day session was just the second open test held this season after NASCAR banned all private testing at the end of last season.

Crews busy in Garage
Crews busy in Garage
Pete McCole/AR1

NASCAR's new rules package, which includes new rules on aerodynamics and horsepower, first got put through its paces during an open test prior to its season debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1.

Even with the test, teams were struggling to find the right balance and pushing the limits of the rules, resulting in 13 teams missing out on the qualifying session for the Atlanta race after their cars failed to pass inspection.

With the testing ban in place, teams have been force to rely on simulations , computer modeling and wind tunnels to get their cars ready for the season, making it all the more critical for teams to get as much information as they can during Wednesday's test.

"Being able to try things and look at the data acquisition and see what it did (is a significant advantage)," said Kasey Kahne's crew chief Keith Rodden. "On a race weekend, you don't get to run with sensors, so you can make changes but not really know what happens. That's the biggest advantage we get from these tests.

"(The conditions) might be different (in May), but they're going to be way closer than if this test was last week. I think it's like 75 out there. I feel like this test is going to help when we come back because there's not going to be that 40 or 50 degree jump in ambient temperature, but there's so much you have to be cognizant of."

Aric Almirola
Aric Almirola
Pete McCole/AR1

Almirola was one of four drivers who participated in a Goodyear tire test on Tuesday that was closed to the media, running several sessions testing the 2016 rules package that NASCAR is planning to allow team to run in the Sprint All Star race.

"We've just been running through a lot of setup things and a lot of aero stuff and a lot of things that we kind of came up with over the winter and we've had a lot of questions about, whether they were gonna be better or not. It's hard when the wind tunnel tells you one thing sometimes the race track agrees and sometimes it doesn't, so we've just been kind of validating some stuff on the race track that we've seen in the wind tunnel," said Almirola. "We've been kind of validating some stuff that we've been seeing in our new simulation software and kind of correlating that to the real world aspect at the race track. It's been a great test for us as far as those things are concerned."

Almirola, who sat on the pole for the Coca Cola 600 last May, hopes that what they've been working on during this test will give him an edge in one of the sports longest and most prestigious races.

"I think the All-Star Race is gonna be unique and something interesting and exciting all on its own. I'm guessing or I've heard that there's a possibility we'll run the 2016 rules package in the All-Star Race, so the potential is there for that," said Almirola. "But as far as the (Coca Cola) 600, that's one race that everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500. Those are the four major races in our series.

"Anytime you come here in May, you know it's a grueling race. It's 600 miles. You've got to have a car that will last. That's kind of what we've worked on today. You've got to make it last on a long run. You've got to make it consistent in the heat of the day when it's hot and sunny and slick and when it cools off like it does at nighttime. You just go through so many swings and transitions with the racetrack that you've got to have a really consistent racecar."

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