It’s hard to believe that all of us in Kentucky can now start saying that the Sprint Cup Series will be here in the Commonwealth next month. The track will turn on its lights for the first time ever on Saturday night July 9 for the Sprint Cup Series when it hosts the Quaker State 400.
While this will be the inaugural Cup race at the track, it will by no means the first appearance for the Sprint Cup cars at the 1.5-mile trioval. Before 2009, hardly a week went by during the season that at least one Sprint Cup team didn’t show up in Sparta to test. The track was hosting both Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races, but NASCAR allowed Cup teams to test at any track that didn’t host a Sprint Cup event.
All of that changed when NASCAR in 2009 began a new testing policy that put any track that held a Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series race off limits for testing. However, this past Wednesday seven Sprint Cup teams rolled into the speedway to do a tire test for Goodyear in preparation for next month’s race.
Tire testing for Goodyear takes place throughout the season and, with this being the first-ever race for Goodyear at the track with the heavier Cup cars, the tire maker wanted to test the tire compound it had selected to ensure it would provide for good racing and, more importantly, make for a safe race.
The seven teams taking part in the testing included the Toyotas of David Reutimann and Joey Logano. Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick represented Chevrolet, with Greg Biffle and Travis Kvapil representing the Ford camp. The lone Dodge team was that of Brad Keselowski, who represented the two-car operation of Penske Racing that happen to be the only Dodges that compete full time in the series.
NASCAR mandates that the teams that take part in the Goodyear tests are limited in what they can and can’t do to their cars during the testing. It’s all about putting a bunch of laps on the tires so Goodyear can see how well a tire is holding up under simulated racing conditions.
Even though the teams are not permitted to make the changes they normally would during a race, you can’t help but think those teams that get to test at a track do pick up some information that will help them when they return for the green flag. They should have a pretty good feel for how much the tires are going to fall off during a green flag run as well as where the fastest way around the track may be.
The Cup race will cap off a NASCAR triple-header as the trucks will take to the track on Thursday, July 7, with the running of the UNOH 225 followed on Friday by the Nationwide Series’ Feed The Children 300. There are still tickets left for all three events, but the Cup Series tickets are going fast and you can pick up yours by calling (888) 652-7223.
PIT NOTES: Roush-Fenway Racing continues to show the rest of the series what a difference a year can make. Last season was one that owner Jack Roush would just as soon forget as his four-car operation did not make it to victory lane until the 21st race of the season and never really did have a driver challenge for the Sprint Cup title. The organization did end up with four wins on the season as both Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards made two late season trips to victory lane in what turned out to be a glimpse of what we would see this year from Ford’s lead operation. This season Matt Kenseth has already won two races, while current points leader Carl Edwards had one win going into Kansas and also laid claim to the million dollar check for winning the Sprint All- Star race at Charlotte. Teammate David Ragan hasn’t won a points race but did win the qualifying race held for the All-Star race. That leaves only Greg Biffle without a win this season and on several occasions this season he had a car good enough to win only to have the win slip away during the final laps. It is only June but you can’t help but feel that all of this early season success has Roush and company thinking this is the season that they break the grip of Jimmie Johnson on the championship trophy.
Race Preview Event: Pocono 500 Track: Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile triangle, banking in turn one- 14 degrees, #2- 8 degrees, #3- 6 degrees) Date: June 12, 1 p.m. TV: TNT Radio: MRN Defending Champion: Denny Hamlin