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Variance of Testing Strategies Present at Homestead Test

Variance of Testing Strategies Present at Homestead Test

by October 30, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Homestead Miami Speedway

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — There’s not a lot of time spent in an idle position as a race car driver, if one is not at a track for a race weekend or making promotional appearances, they may be out at a race track for testing.

15 drivers from five different championship contending Sprint Cup teams (Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske, Roush-Fenway Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing) headed down to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday for preparation for the Ford Ecoboost 400 in two weeks.

Seven of the 15 drivers who were present at the test at the mile-and-a-half speedway were drivers that are presently in contention for the championship. Ryan Newman was the lone Chase driver to not attend the two-day test.

With a mix of Chase drivers and non-Chase drivers present in Homestead, not every team and driver took laps around the track with the same goal in mind.

For Chase drivers like Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano, Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions provided the drivers with an opportunity to test for their speed for the final race of the season – a race that could hand any one of the three the 2014 championship.

“For us, we’re just focused on this race for this year and it’s just all about speed,” Gordon said on Tuesday. “It’s about having a car that handles well. This is a very challenging race track, especially in the heat of the day – it’s abrasive, it’s slick, and hard to get a hold of. It’s really difficult to get the balance right on this track. You really struggle sliding the front tires getting into Turn 1 and the back end coming off of Turn 4.

“We’ve had some good cars here also for the last couple of years, we want to simulate that and hope that we’re in the battle for the championship when we come back here. If we are, we have a car that can win this race.”

Logano echoed Gordon’s sentiments and elaborated a bit on what the goals were for the No. 22 Penske team for the two-day test.

“That’s why you see so many cars down here testing is because it’s all going to come down to Homestead as we all know,” Logano said of the importance of this test. “Making sure you have a fast car here is going to be important because it’s going to be the difference between winning the championship or not. Most likely, you’re going to have to win here to win the championship this year; if not, you’re going to have to be damn close to it. It’s going to be a heck of a race.”

“We’re here just kind of going through the motions of the different parts and pieces we want to try and things we don’t normally get to try on race weekends like we do at other tests and try to learn something.”

Logano’s teammate and fellow championship contender, Brad Keselowski, came to Homestead with a different approach with his No. 2 team than the one Logano brought to the race course.

While Logano tested different mechanical pieces that his team would not typically change during a race weekend, Keselowski came to Homestead with his crew to work on fine tuning their Homestead setup.

“This is a key test for us, it’s our final test, and with NASCAR’s testing ban there’s something to be said for that,” Keselowski said. “It’s kind of a sad and happy day at the same time. We’re here and we’re trying to find a little more speed.

“We’re on the fine tune knob, so to speak, in trying to find speed specific for this track whether it be some small setup stuff or who knows what. We’re having a good test so far, we’re learning a few things. We’ve had some solid performances here but we want to find a little bit more to be able to win.”

Roush-Fenway Racing’s last remaining Chase threat, Carl Edwards, used Tuesday and Wednesday to not only prepare for the Ford Ecoboost 400, but for this weekend’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway as well.

“We’re hoping to learn some things for Texas,” Edwards said prior to the test. “More importantly, we’re hoping to be as prepared as we can be for a championship battle for Ford championship weekend. This is an opportunity for us to make sure that – if we’re one of the final four – that we can perform.”

With the Chase teams focusing on the races remaining on the 2014 schedule, drivers who are no longer in the Chase or who didn’t make the Chase at all find themselves looking at other things to test at Homestead.

For Dale Earnhardt Jr., him and his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports crew used part of their test to get a head start on the rest of the field by testing with a mock-up of the 2015 intermediate track regulations.

“We’re in a bit of a different situation than Jeff is where we’re not racing for the championship,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We sort of split the test in half – we’ll work on our 2015 package today and then work on the 2014 package this evening late and then all day tomorrow.

“We feel like we had a good car here last year, we just want to come back and try to learn a few more things and hopefully come out of here pretty satisfied and happy and we’re looking forward to the race.”

After two days of testing, the 15 drivers to test at Homestead will pack up and head to Fort Worth, Texas, for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The drivers and teams present at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday will return to the track in two weeks for the Ford Ecoboost 400 race weekend.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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