LAS VEGAS — Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among the 48 drivers to turn laps during the NASCAR Sprint Cup open test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday. The test afforded teams the opportunity to build upon the 2014 intermediate-track rules package that was formalized late last year.
Serving as the first official NASCAR test with the new 2014 rules package in place, today’s four-hour session allowed teams to prepare for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – the series’ first visit to a 1.5-mile track in 2014 – and beyond.
"This stuff will translate to Charlotte (N.C.), Texas and a lot of other places where we see similar loads on the left-front corner of the car," Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the media on Thursday morning prior to the test. "Even just to be able to see, you’ll be able to get an idea of where you are against the competition at the mile-and-a-half tracks which are prevalent throughout the series. Everybody is really anxious to see where they are after all the off-season work and study against the competition."
Included in the new intermediate track rules package are various physical changes to the car that were determined after much collaboration between NASCAR, the teams and the manufacturers. Based in part on two lengthy test sessions at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and December, NASCAR implemented chassis and aerodynamic adjustments into the setup specifications to encourage more green-flag passing and side-by-side racing. Changes to the package include statically setting the race car ride height, a square leading edge on the splitter, side skirt and rear fascia adjustments and an eight-inch rear spoiler. A 43-inch by 13-inch radiator pan rounded out changes for 2014.
"Everybody obviously wants to learn what they can about the rules and the changes in the ride height," Earnhardt said. "They’re allowing some different things with bump stops as well and there are just a lot of different variables that we have yet to be able to get on the racetrack. I know a lot of other teams have tested a lot at Nashville (Tenn.) and some places, but there are some teams like ourselves who haven’t really put a lot of time into testing in the off-season due to the lack of reasonable facilities to test at."
“There’s a bit of a learning curve,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development. “The package we put together is going to be used on all the tracks except the superspeedways, so at Phoenix we began to see a glimpse, but obviously since that’s only a mile track, the speeds are a lot lower. They could probably only harvest maybe 30 to 40 percent of the capability of the package, so really this will be the first race where we get to see they can fully exploit the aerodynamic and chassis changes.”
Racing action will continue for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the Kobalt 400 on Sunday, March 9 at 3 p.m. ET. Live coverage will air on FOX, Performance Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, with additional coverage on NASCAR.com.