Hendrick Motorsports drivers reflect on Michigan testing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the second consecutive week, Hendrick Motorsports drivers joined other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams to test on a newly repaved race track. The reaction coming out of Thursday’s test session at Michigan International Speedway ranged from “holding your breath” to “being quite a rush.”
Speeds exceeded the 200 mile per hour barrier, with four drivers posting fastest lap times in excess of 200 miles per hour in the morning session when conditions were ideal for going fast. Teams arrived a day early to prepare for Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan.
Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. tested the new surface at Pocono Raceway on June 6 and 7. The four drivers stated the additional track time helped them dial in for the Cup race at the Trick Triangle on June 10 where Johnson and Earnhardt finished in the top-10.
Johnson described what it felt like navigating the new surface at Michigan in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
“It is quite a rush for the driver to be going this fast,” said Johnson. “There seems to be a good combination with the new surface and the tire that Goodyear brought. I feel comfortable in the car, although it’s still quite the challenge as a driver to get around at these high speeds.”
Earnhardt’s also felt comfortable on the new surface, but said the high speeds weren’t as noticeable to him.
“You don’t really feel like you’re going that fast. They’re really high and they look big on the sheet and they look impressive on the stats, but the speeds really don’t feel that fast. The car is real comfortable and it’s really surprising to hear the speeds that we’re running because it doesn’t feel like we’re going that fast,” the driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/The Dark Knight Rises/National Guard Chevrolet said.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition, said that the feedback he was receiving from the drivers and teams about the new pavement was positive. “We’re getting good reports from the teams on how the new surface is doing,” said Pemberton. “That, plus the fact that Goodyear has done another outstanding job with picking a good tire for this event, things are shaping up for a really good event here on Sunday.”
Pemberton went on to say that the conditions for the morning test were “optimum for posting the fast speeds.”
“With the cool temperatures (in the 60s) and the track conditions, we’re pretty sure these are the fastest speeds we are going to see at this track,” said Pemberton. “Once the track takes on more rubber and the temperatures go up (temperatures are expected to approach the 90-degree mark this weekend), you should see the speeds go down some.”
Gordon agreed with Pemberton’s statement that speeds would drop by race day.
“While 220 is definitely fast, I think by Sunday that pace is going to drop,” Gordon said.
“I think you’re going to have moments and blips of those types of speeds, but it’s going to be hot. There’s going to be more rubber on the track, just like we saw at Pocono. It’s going to be similar to that pace. To me, that pace was almost like a second off immediately on Sunday at Pocono. And I think you’re going to see something similar to here where the pace is going to be down enough where I think we’re going to be fine with the speeds.”
Fans can catch the Hendrick Motorsports drivers on the new surface by tuning in for Sunday’s Cup race at noon ET on TNT, check local listings.