SPARTA, Ky. – Hendrick Motorsports participated in an open testing session at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday. The day-long event gave the organization an opportunity to research electronic fuel injection, while the teams spent the day gathering information about the new NASCAR Sprint Cup track for Saturday’s Quaker State 400.
Hendrick Motorsports engineers have worked closely with Chevrolet to incorporate the change to fuel injection for the 2012 Cup cars. Currently, Cup cars use a carburetor to deliver fuel to the engine.
“We are all excited,” said Jeff Andrews, director of engine operations for Hendrick Motorsports. “We’re excited about the technology. Our partners at Chevrolet have been a tremendous help to us in guiding us through this and helping us make the first step. So what we hope is that this is a good tool. It brings our level of racing closer to the level of technology that exists within our manufacturer at GM and Chevrolet.
“We’re just working with the system, for really this first time in an at-track environment and trying to understand,” Andrews added. “It’s like we’ve got this new toy, right; and we’ve got 100 knobs here to turn, so which ones are the sensitive ones? And when we come back, I’m sure we’ll do things differently. There’s always got to be a first time, and we’re just trying to work through a consistent matrix here of tests.”
During the first testing session, Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers posted times inside the top 10 on the speed charts. Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, led the field, circling the 1.5-mile speedway in 30.703 seconds at roughly 175.879 mph. Johnson’s teammates Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10, scoring the seventh-, ninth- and 10th-place spots, respectively.
“From a driver’s standpoint, this track has changed so much from the last time I had driven here,” Johnson said. We’ve been really eager to test on a mile-and-a-half just to more than anything validate the adjustments on the car and we believe certain things so whatever they do on the car. Until you come to the track and have a chance to validate it and really look at it with the telemetry, you’re just guessing. It was nice to get a data set.”
“Racing here is different than testing here,” Gordon said. “Having that test date (Thursday) was valuable in trying to figure out what it’s going to take and that’s probably the biggest challenge is what is it going to take. Even yesterday with testing, you might be able to put one or two good laps together and maybe you could even put 10 good laps together, but how are the tires going to wear, how is the track going to change as it rubbers up – maybe the groove moves wider. What is it going to take to win? I don’t think anybody truly knows that right now.”
At the end of the second session on Thursday, Johnson, Martin and Gordon remained in the top 10 finishing sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Earnhardt increased his speed to 174.842 mph in the second session and earned the fourth-best 10 consecutive lap average, behind Gordon. The driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet finished the day 27th on the leaderboard.
“(Testing) went pretty good I thought,” Earnhardt said. “It was real hot, but we got a lot of laps in, tried a lot of things and between the four teams, I think we all sort of covered all the bases. Pretty productive. We’re just trying to figure out what the track likes as far the setup and how the front end wants to work and what is best to get the front end really positive on the racetrack.”
Earnhardt and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates will try to apply their lessons learned in Saturday’s inaugural Quaker State 400 at Kentucky. The race will be televised at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT.