Rookies Set the Pace in Tuesday Cup Testing
Dealing with a harder Goodyear tire compound than has been used here in the past, teams methodically searched for the proper shocks and springs to maximize speed on the refurbished racing surface.
The teams of rookies Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin came closest to solving the mechanical mystery as Bowyer topped the speed chart at 183.892 mph in the No. 07 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet while Hamlin was second fastest at 183.799 mph in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevy.
Defending NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart was third fastest at 183.717 mph in the No. 20 Chevrolet while Carl Edwards was fourth on the chart at 183.705 mph in the No. 99 Ford. Veteran Ken Schrader completed the top five at 183.667 mph.
Drivers were very complimentary of the $3.5 million resurfacing project which required nearly 16,000 tons of asphalt.
"The track paving job, as far as I'm concerned, is pretty darn good," said Kyle Busch, who received a cake and a bottle of champagne from track officials in celebration of his 21st birthday. "It's excellent. It's very smooth out there. The tires, I feel they are a little too hard for what we're trying to do out there, but Goodyear tried to bring a tire that would last and help slow us down because that's what NASCAR wanted. Overall I think we're going to accomplish that."
"We've just been kind of getting our car set up for the race track, seeing what kind of springs we can run," said Edwards. "Everybody's asking about the tires, so far the tires look like they are not wearing hardly at all-at least in the short run. I don't know how they'll do on real long runs, but I think they'll be fine. The track is really smooth. It's amazing how smooth they got it."
"The track is really nice. They did a nice job paving it," said 2000 Coca-Cola 600 winner Matt Kenseth. "It's going to eventually be the same old Charlotte. The tire's pretty hard, probably a little harder than the race track. I don't think we'll blow any tires. But the tire's hard and that's something that we'll have to deal with. The track is really nice and I think the race is going to be fine on it."
Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Kurt Busch, Brent Sherman and Martin Truex Jr. were involved in single-car crashes during the seven-hour testing session. While their cars were heavily damaged, none of the drivers were injured.
Dave Blaney, Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin each spun, but did not make wall contact.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup testing continues Wednesday. Teams will once again be on track from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a one-hour dinner break at 5 p.m. Charlotte Motor Speedway's main grandstand will be open free of charge and spectators should enter through Gate 5A at the base of Smith Tower.
Tickets for all May events, including the May 20 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge and the May 28 Coca-Cola 600, can be purchased by calling 1-800-455-FANS or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
Showing driver and fastest lap: 1. Clint Bowyer, 183.892; 2. Denny Hamlin, 183.799; 3. Tony Stewart, 183.717; 4. Carl Edwards, 183.705; 5. Ken Schrader, 183.667; 6. Jeff Gordon, 183.611; 7. Casey Mears, 183, 418; 8. Kevin Harvick, 183.343; 9. J.J. Yeley, 183.324; 10. Kyle Petty, 183.200; 11. Matt Kenseth, 183.163; 12. Mark Martin, 182.896; 13. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 182.883; 14. Jeff Burton, 182.797; 15. Ryan Newman, 182.791; 16. Greg Biffle, 182.716; 17. Jimmie Johnson, 182.667; 18. Johnny Sauter, 182.599; 19. Dale Jarrett, 182.513; 20. Reed Sorenson, 182.506; 21. Jamie McMurray, 182.469; 22. Jeff Green, 182.408; 23. David Stremme, 182.395; 24. Scott Riggs, 182.205; 25. Elliott Sadler, 182.131; 26. Tony Raines, 182.113; 27. Joe Nemechek, 182.039; 28. Mike Garvey, 181.977; 29. Robby Gordon, 181.916; 30. Kyle Busch, 181.867; 30. Kurt Busch, 181.629; 32. Kenny Wallace, 181.622; 33. Bobby Labonte, 181.476; 34. Dave Blaney, 181.251; 35. Kevin Lepage, 181.220; 36. Terry Labonte, 181.111; 37. Martin Truex Jr., 180.947; 38. Paul Menard, 180,898; 39.Sterling Marlin, 180.705; 40. Bill Elliott, 180.415; 41. Travis Kvapil, 180.102; 42. Scott Wimmer, 180.060; 43. Jeremy Mayfield, 179,946; 44. Brian Vickers, 179.742; 45. Michael Waltrip, 179.325; 46. Mike Wallace, 176.719; 47. Brent Sherman, 174.205.