Hamlin Fastest in Busch Series Testing
As it did during the two days of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup testing last week, the new track surface received rave reviews, but the unique handling characteristics of the Busch Series cars was the primary topic of discussion in the garage area.
"The Busch car's a little simpler to drive," said Carl Edwards, after climbing from his No. 60 AmeriQuest Mortgage Ford. "The Busch car has more downforce, but less horsepower. It's a little more forgiving, so you can be more aggressive with the throttle."
That aggressiveness resulted in Denny Hamlin posting the fastest lap of the seven-hour testing session at 186.130 mph in the No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet. His lap was just a couple ticks of the watch slower than the 186.929 mph lap on Wednesday that put rookie David Stremme on top of the NEXTEL Cup speed chart.
Jon Wood was second fastest in the No. 47 Clorox Ford at 186.098 mph.
"It's an altogether better race track," Wood said. "You don't have as many drastic changes of elevation. The tire that we have here is outstanding. A lot of people are complaining, saying that it has no feel but it's done what NASCAR wanted it to do, and that was slow us down to where we aren't running space-shuttle like times. I think there will be really good racing. It seems like the top groove will come in really fast."
A lap of 186.014 mph put Matt Kenseth's No. 17 AmeriQuest Mortgage Ford third on the speed chart and Edwards was fourth fastest at 185.771. Jeff Burton rounded out the top five at 185.707 in the No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet.
"The Busch cars have a hundred less horsepower than the Cup cars and we're going through the corners a lot faster than the Cup cars," explained Kenny Wallace, driver of the No. 22 AutoZone Ford. "The track's not as fast as when it was levigated, but this is more like it-this is the way it needs to be."
"This is a big change," noted John Andretti, who has 22 NEXTEL Cup starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway but did not race on the levigated surface last year. "Charlotte was always a tricky place-it was really like Indianapolis where the weather would change and the track would change with the weather. Now, it's a totally different race track. It looks different; it doesn't even feel like Charlotte Motor Speedway in a lot of ways.
"You're fighting something totally different than you used to fight here. But it's going to come down to the same thing-whoever figures it out is going to be the guy that wins," concluded the driver of the No. 10 Freedom Roads/Camping World Ford.
"Not quite rocket-ship fast, but we're decent so far," was rookie Mark McFarland's summation about his No. 88 Navy Accelerate Your Life Chevrolets. "Today we're mainly just feeling the cars out and being somewhat cautious. They wrecked a lot of cars here last week in Cup testing and we don't want to have that problem. I'm also concentrating on getting more time on the track so I'll be more comfortable when we come back in a few weeks."
There was only one accident and it came early in the session when a cut right-front tire sent Kyle Busch's No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet into the Turn 3 SAFER barrier. Busch was not hurt and his lone accident was a stark comparison to the five cars that crashed on the opening day of the NEXTEL Cup test.
NASCAR Busch Series testing for the May 27 CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 continues Tuesday and Wednesday. Teams will be on the track from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day 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 CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 on Saturday night, May 27, can be purchased online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.
Showing driver and fastest lap: 1. Denny Hamlin, 186.130; 2. Jon Wood, 186.098; 3. Matt Kenseth, 186.014; 4. Carl Edwards, 185.771; 5. Jeff Burton, 185.707; 6. Mark Martin, 185.529; 7. Paul Menard, 185.433; 8. Greg Biffle, 185.401; 9. J.J. Yeley, 185.312; 10. Kyle Busch, 185.185; 11. Jamie McMurray, 184.963; 12. Martin Truex Jr., 184.773; 13. Reed Sorenson, 184.609; 14. Todd Kluever, 184.439; 15. Clint Bowyer, 184.420; 16. Kevin Harvick, 183.899; 17. Danny O'Quinn, 183.611; 18. Michael Waltrip, 183.424; 19. Scott Wimmer, 183.405; 20. Stacy Compton, 183.125; 21. Mark McFarland, 182.865; 22. John Andretti, 182.766; 23. Johnny Sauter, 182.611; 24. Mike Wallace, 181.904; 25. Kenny Wallace, 180.560; 26. David Green, 180.439; 27. Kertus Davis, 180.012; 28. Aaron Fike, 178.359; 29. Eric McClure, 177.521