Teams Solve Track Surface Puzzle
"I'm very aggressive on the track and it's been OK for me," said Jimmie Johnson whose No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet was fastest among the 14 teams preparing for the Dollar General 300 on Friday night, Oct. 13. "All the laps that were put on the track last week along with the dragging of the tires they've done the last few days have put some rubber down and made the track more consistent.
"I found a great line." Johnson continued. "I can't believe how fast we are going around here in a Busch car, not really even letting off."
Johnson's fastest lap on the unofficial stopwatches was 28.906 seconds, 186.812 mph, which is just a tick slower than Tony Stewart's fastest lap last week during NASCAR NEXTEL Cup testing.
"I definitely think the track's better," said Stewart who was testing the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet. "'They drug some tires around here which is something we mentioned last week. There's not really much they can do, but what they did do seemed to help quite a bit. We all give 'Humpy' a hard time for changing the track because we all liked it the way it was, but since he learned there is a problem he hasn't stopped trying to make it better so we can at least go out there and do our job."
"Race tracks have personalities," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "And this track certainly got a new one in May when we ended up with 22 caution flags during the Coca-Cola 600.
"But we've done a lot of things to the track since then. We've levigated the front straightaway to smooth it out and we did some work in Turn 2," Wheeler continued. "I think what happened last week during the NEXTEL Cup test was that there wasn't enough rubber on the race track.
"When these teams come back in a few weeks, it's going to be fast and it's going to be furious, but it's still going to be Charlotte Motor Speedway and this track has a distinct personality, Wheeler concluded."
Two drivers crashed during the six-hour session but the track surface was not a factor in either, and both were able to drive their cars back to the garage area.
Early in the session, rookie Adrian Fernandez backed the No. 5 Lowe's Chevrolet into the Turn 2 wall.
"All of a sudden it just snapped around," said the Mexico City native. "I was taking my time and not pushing it at all. It really took me by surprise. I don't know what happened."
Late in the evening, a flat right-front tire sent Jeremy Mayfield's No. 79 Dodge into the outside wall.
In the search for speed, Johnson topped the chart while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Busch was second fastest at 185.573 mph in the No. 57 Lowe's Chevrolet.
"Our teammate is a little bit better right now," Busch said. "Jimmie and I have been talking about searching around to try to find what groove is going to be the best for the race.
"Jimmie and I both run really well here and he's the main reason for my success," added Busch who won the CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 Busch race and the Quaker Steak & Lube 200 Craftsman truck series race at the 1.5-mile track in May. "He's been able to help me out with the line to run around this place and things like that."
Mayfield was third fastest at 184.313 mph before his wreck and Jamie McMurray was fourth at 183.817 mph in the No. 64 Miller High Dodge. Jon Wood was fifth and fastest among the Busch Series regulars at 183.655 mph in the No. 47 Clorox Ford.
NASCAR Busch Series testing for the Oct. 14 Dollar General 300 continues Wednesday evening. Cars will be on the track from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Fans can watch the action from the frontstretch grandstand free of charge and should enter through Gate 5A which is located next to the ticket office in Smith Tower.
Tickets for the Dollar General 300 start at just $17 and can be purchased by calling 1-800-455-FANS or online here.
The top-10 unofficial speeds:
Showing driver, car number and speed:
1. Jimmie Johnson, 48, 186.812
2. Kyle Busch, 57, 185.573
3. Jeremy Mayfield, 79, 184.313
4. Jamie McMurray, 64, 183.817
5. Jon Wood, 47, 183.655
6. Tony Stewart, 19, 183.511
7. Jason Keller, 35, 181.421
8. Ashton Lewis Jr., 25, 181.105
9. Brent Sherman, 10, 180.542
10. Tony Raines, 33, 179.253