Erik Jones, current XFINITY Series points leader Chris Buescher and defending series champion Chase Elliott – three drivers whose average age is 20 – tested the two-mile oval, helping engineers determine the best tire combination for when NASCAR returns to the Irish Hills next June.
"Goodyear's working on a couple different compounds, just to see if we can get more of the drivability back in the cars," Buescher said. "If you ask Cup guys who were here earlier this year, with a 'high-drag' package, drivability wasn't an issue. Their cars were easier to drive then. Now, it's a bit of a handful. We're lifting out of the throttle more, trying to figure out where to be on the racetrack and how the line's going to change."
The base rules package for next year features components that provide lower downforce: a 3.5-inch spoiler, a quarter-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch-wide radiator pan. Characteristics of the so-called "low-drag" package are more off-throttle time for drivers and decreasing corner speeds. This generates more passing zones around the track.
Elliott, who estimated top speeds during the test to be in the 210-mph range, was cautious in his assessment of Tuesday's session.
"Until you get into a race with a bunch of other cars around you, particularly at this track, it's hard to know exactly what this new package is going to do," he said. "I hope this is another step continuing down this path. This is the direction we need to be going in. We can't stop here and be satisfied too soon."
"Overall, this is a step in the right direction and a good change," he said. "This package provides for a little more driver input, which is nice, and it feels pretty good to me."
Tuesday's testing took place under clear skies with temperatures in the mid-70s.
"These conditions are not far off from what we'll get when we come back here in June," Buescher said. "It's not like it's 40 degrees or something, though the speeds are probably up a little bit from where they'd be on a warmer day." MRN.com