Brian Vickers Fastest in Cup Testing
With teams focusing on long runs and race set-ups, several drivers consistently posted laps in the mid-180 mph range, just shy of Ryan Newman¿s 188-mph track record.
Brian Vickers was fastest on the unofficial stopwatches with a lap at 186.130 mph in the No. 25 GMAC/ditech.com Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, but his night ended against the outside wall.
"The changes have definitely given the track more grip," Vickers said early in the evening. " don't know if I would say that it's smoother. It's still pretty rough, but that¿s not always a bad thing. I like it. I think it¿s going to be fast."
With just one minute left in the session, a flat right-front tire sent Vickers'Chevrolet into the turn-two wall. The car was heavily damaged, but the 21-year-old Thomasville, N.C., native was not injured.
It looks as if Bobby Labonte¿s luck may finally be taking a turn for the better as the 1995 Coca-Cola 600 winner recorded the second fastest lap at 185.592 mph in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet.
Jeff Gordon joined his Hendrick Motorsports teammate in the top three on the unofficial speed chart with a lap at 185.554 mph in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.
¿I ran a lap almost as fast as I qualified here last race in race trim, so it¿s a lot faster,"said Gordon. ¿I think the corners are great, definitely the smoothest I¿ve ever seen this place. They¿ve certainly found something that works very well. I think it¿s going to be really good, and the track is really fast right now.
¿It¿s changed things for sure. It¿s not like a totally different race track, but you can run some different lines. You can really arc the corners a lot more because you can carry a lot more speed in and through the corners," Gordon added. ¿I know some guys are running a higher line. I prefer to run a little bit lower, but right now with the speeds increased the way they are I¿m sort of forced to run a little bit higher."
Veteran Mark Martin, a 13-time winner in various divisions at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway was fourth on the unofficial stopwatches at 185.554 mph in the No. 6 Viagra Ford.
"This was the greatest place in the world, and it's still pretty good, but I don't think they should have ground it," said Martin. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens during a race."
Jeremy Mayfield rounded out the top-five speeds at 185.312 mph in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge.
The only other incidents during the six-hour testing session came just before the dinner break when Casey Mears hit the wall in turn two and Dale Jarrett bounced off the SAFER barrier in turns three and four on the same lap. Both were able to drive to the garage area and Mears was able to continue testing. Jarrett, however, was finished for the evening.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing continues Wednesday evening, May 4, with the cars once again on the track from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Fans can attend the final night of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing free of charge. Charlotte Motor Speedway's frontstretch grandstand will be open and fans should enter through Gate 5A, located next to the main ticket office.
Tickets for all May events at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including the May 21 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge and the May 29 Coca-Cola 600, can be purchased by calling 1-800-455-FANS or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
The top-10 unofficial speeds:
Showing driver, car No. and speed:
1. Brian Vickers, 25, 186.130
2. Bobby Labonte, 18, 185.592
3. Jeff Gordon, 24, 185.554
4. Mark Martin, 6, 185.491
5. Jeremy Mayfield, 19, 185.312
6. Casey Mears, 41, 185.039
7. Joe Nemechek 01, 184.982
8. Kyle Busch, 5, 184.603
9. Martin Truex Jr., 1, 184.300
10. Kevin Harvick, 29, 184.281.