NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Test At Darlington Racewayby Hunter Thomas June 10, 2015 0 comments
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Twelve drivers hit the banks of Darlington Raceway on Wednesday afternoon for an open test to prepare for the upcoming Bojangles’ Southern 500 that’ll be held on Labor Day weekend.
The open test session started at 9 a.m. and concluded at 4:45 p.m. The temperatures were in the high 80s, so the conditions were likely similar to what the teams will face come September. Throughout the afternoon, many of the drivers earned their first Darlington Stripe of the season. Drivers who participated in the open test included Arica Almirola, Greg Biffle, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jeb Burton, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.
Last weekend’s Pocono Raceway winner, Martin Truex Jr. topped the speed chart in the open test with a lap of 28.097 seconds at 175.535 mph. Prior to Truex Jr.’s win this past weekend, the last time Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 Chevrolet visited Victory Lane was at Darlington during the 2011 edition of the Southern 500. On Wednesday, Truex Jr. recapped his hectic weekend that included many media appearances, as well as the funeral of his grandmother. He also mentioned how special it’d be if he were to earn a win at the Lady In Black later this season.
“I absolutely love this racetrack,” Truex Jr. said. “Obviously the history around the Southern 500 and what it means to the sport, it’s just unbelievable. It’s over the top, so I feel like this is one of the tracks where – this is one of my better tracks, and I know the results probably don’t show it, but I’ve led a lot of laps here. I feel very comfortable here. This is the place that’s right at the top of my list of places I’d love to win at.”
Truex Jr. continued and said, “This track is really so different than most of the places we go. It’s all about trying to take what we’ve been doing all year and saying ‘okay, how do we make it work at Darlington’. This isn’t really the place where you’ll learn a lot for other racetracks. It’s more of a little tune-up and a little test session to get an idea of what we’re going to need to do here in the fall to be competitive.”
On Wednesday, Aric Almirola discussed how valuable test sessions are at Darlington Raceway because there are no other tracks on the schedule that the team can compare data to. Unfortunately for the team, they experienced a mechanical failure at Pocono Raceway and fell four spots in the championship point standings. He’s currently 14th in the standings.
“It’s always good to come test at Darlington,” Almirola said. “It’s a very unique track, so any time you get a chance to come and make laps and kind of fine-tune what you do here, because it’s so different than any other racetrack we go to. It’s nice. I’m glad we’ve gotten to come here and run some laps. It has given us a chance to run through some different setups and different ideas.”
As for Almirola’s crew chief, Trent Owens, coming back to Darlington Raceway is always special, because he’s a local of the small South Carolina town. Ever since Owens joined Richard Petty Motorsports, the team has significantly improved their performance. The team now competes within the top-15 week in and week out. Owens believes the team’s recent consistency will help catapult the team into this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“We felt like leading into the season that if we were going to contend for the Chase again, we need to be a little more consistent than we were last year, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” Owens said. “We’ve shown some speed, and we’ve have good finishes. Last week was a bummer losing the engine, and that was a big hit in the points, but aside from that, we have managed to average around a 15th-place finish, which is good for our race team. Test sessions like this enable us to try and find a little more speed in our cars and try to get into the top-10 and try to get into the top-five.”
Clint Bowyer finished out the test session in the sixth position, but he really favors Darlington Raceway’s wearing asphalt. The last time the raceway was repaved was back in 2008. Bowyer came up in dirt racing, so sliding sideways through the corners comes naturally. He finished 12th during last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.
“It’s back to the old Darlington,” Bowyer said. Slippin’ and slidin’ around and about to bust your butt and nervous and startin’ to manage your tires and things like we used to do with the old surface, and I really like that. I like the direction it’s heading.”
At the end of the session, drivers drafted and passed each other while trying to gain more data before they make the trip back to the raceway in September. Following Truex Jr. on the speed chart on Wednesday afternoon was Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch. Busch ran 108 laps, most of any driver on Wednesday.
For ticket information to this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 and NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200, visit www.DarlingtonRaceway.com.
Darlington Raceway Open Test Results:
1.) #78 Martin Truex Jr. | 28.097 seconds | 175.535 mph
2.) #1 Jamie McMurray | 28.240 seconds | 174.646 mph
3.) #41 Kurt Busch | 28.313 seconds | 174.196 mph
4.) #31 Ryan Newman | 28.327 seconds | 174.110 mph
5.) #18 Kyle Busch | 28.339 seconds | 174.036 mph
6.) #15 Clint Bowyer | 28.426 seconds | 173.503 mph
7.) #21 Ryan Blaney | 28.501 seconds | 173.047 mph
8.) #48 Jimmie Johnson | 28.515 seconds | 172.962 mph
9.) #22 Joey Logano | 28.586 seconds | 172.532 mph
10.) #16 Greg Biffle | 28.658 seconds | 172.099 mph
11.) #43 Aric Almirola | 28.794 seconds | 171.286 mph
12.) #Tyt Toyota Wheelforce | 28.827 seconds | 171.090 mph
13.) #26 Jeb Burton | 29.222 seconds | 168.777 mph
14.) #Chv Chevrolet Wheelforce | 29.355 seconds | 168.012 mph
15.) #Frd Ford Wheelforce | 29.723 seconds | 165.932 mph