NASCAR Cup: teams test Phoenix International Raceway
The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. on tack at Phoenix International Raceway on Jan. 31, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series held a two-day organizational test at Phoenix International Raceway on Tuesday and Wednesday, ahead of the start of the 2017 race season. Series organizations were invited to send one team/driver to the test.
“On a race weekend, we can gather driver feedback, but at a place like this, we can gather all sorts of measurements on the car,” Todd Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano on the No. 22 Team Penske Ford team said. “We’re working through all the pieces that are hard to quantify when you don’t have a data system on it.”
Teams are allowed to use data-collecting devices/programs during testing that they’re not allowed to have the cars hooked-up to during race weekends.
Thirteen teams participated in the Phoenix test, including the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Laps made by Earnhardt were the first laps publicly turned by the driver since being sidelined by a concussion midway through the 2016 race season. Earnhardt, though, suffered a brake issue early Tuesday.
“I feel like I’ve had my vacation, and it was over a long time ago, and I’m ready to go back to work,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt was the fastest in testing with a Wednesday morning lap clocked at 26.555 seconds. Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) was the fastest in the Tuesday morning session with a 26.674-second lap. Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) led afternoon sessions both days, with a 26.586-second lap Tuesday afternoon and a 26.667-second lap Wednesday afternoon.
The test was divided into four sessions — a morning and afternoon session each day.
Also making news in Phoenix was Carl Edwards. Edwards announced in January that he was stepping away from NASCAR competition, as a driver, in 2017. He was in attendance at PIR, though, assisting Daniel Suarez, his replacement in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“At first, I was really looking forward to it (attending the test),” Edwards said. “But then, as the day kind of approached, I thought, ‘What am I going to do there?’ It feels a little strange. The first couple of minutes of being around felt a little funny, but it’s been fine. It’s been pretty neat.”
While many eyes were focused squarely on Earnhardt and Edwards, Stewart-Haas Racing tested its switch from Chevrolet to Ford for 2017. Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 team were SHR’s representatives at PIR.
“It’s important for us, as an organization, to turn all those simulation programs on, download the information into those programs and work through the database,” Harvick said. “I have to adapt to Roush Yates horsepower, how the throttle feels on my foot and working with the engine tuner.”
The PIR test was the first of five organizational tests scheduled for 2017. The next is scheduled for late May at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.