Cup teams test 2017 rules package on newly reconfigured Kentucky Speedway

NASCAR has assembled its own stable of thoroughbreds for a two-day test in the Blue Grass State.

Cup teams test 2017 rules package on newly reconfigured Kentucky Speedway
Kentucky SAFER barrier
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Aric Almirola, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
A.J. Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
Race action
David Ragan, BK Racing Toyota
Michael Annett, HScott Motorsports Chevrolet
Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Drivers were getting a feel for the 2017 rules package on the newly paved and reconfigured Kentucky Speedway, located 45 minutes southwest of Cincinnati. 

Joey Logano was one of 14 drivers that tested the new surface at the 1.5-mile track. 

Sunday’s winner reported a noticeable difference when he was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday

“They definitely changed it —turns one and two, mainly,” Logano said. “A few years ago, when they moved the inside wall out towards the race track from the motorhome parking, it shortened up the apron in one and two. So what they did when they repaved it was they pushed out the apron some so it was more of an apron.

“But they’ve made the track narrower and more banking in one and two. So that corner is a lot different than the old Kentucky, for sure. Three and four is still old Kentucky. It’s really flat in. It’s loose in as can be. It’s really hard to get your car to rotate then a big wide exit off of the corner. So it’s definitely changed up.”

Where the rubber meets the road

With less than half of a field for the test, Logano said the challenge was getting the track to take enough rubber to offer a read with the 2017 package — which teams will use at the race next month. 

“Any time you go on a race track for the first time, all of the oils that are in the asphalt, you have to get it out to try to lay rubber down,” Logano said. “It’s getting closer for sure but usually the first day is just a day to rubber things up and you don’t get to learn as much as you would like. So today’s supposed to be the big day.” 

The problem spot

Kevin Harvick concurred. The current Sprint Cup points leader said there was no way to offer 100-percent assessment on the surface because most ofMonday was simply an exercise in conditioning the track. 

“I think one and two has taken some rubber really well,” Harvick said. “Three and four has cleaned up, but I think that will definitely be the problem spot to try to make the car handle. It will definitely take some time to get it right, but so far, so good.”

Harvick believed teams would have a better read on Tuesday. For Monday’s session, the No. 4 team — which topped the speed chart — concentrated on establishing a track map, travels and working on the car’s balance. 

 

As for how the new car package handles entering Turn 3, Harvick believes the transition will present a challenge. 

"The one trend that we've developed with this particular package is this car is looser getting into the corner -- which it should be with the spoiler cut off the back of it,” Harvick said. It's definitely a big difference down there. It's going to be similar to a Charlotte, Kansas-type speed when the track is where it needs to be. 

"There's a bump where the two seams of asphalt meet that’s about three-quarters around the corner that you're going to have to navigate. It doesn't do anything to the car right now but move the car. But that's one spot you're going to have to navigate as the speeds keep coming up. 

"By the time it’s all said and done, you’ll be well into the 28-second bracket. Right now, one and two is rubbering in well and you can drive through there real hard. Three and four is the corner that’s going to take some time because it’s so flat on entry that you can’t carry near as much speed. So there’s definitely two drastic handling differences from one end to the other that you’re going to have to remember which end you’re on.” 

Logano described the low downforce Michigan aerodynamic package as “a lot different” than the configuration the Sprint Cup cars were set up for at the All-Star Race. As for Kentucky, it's too soon to tell. 

“Obviously, they both had the skew out,” Logano said of Michigan and the All-Star event. “I don't think that’s a bad move at all — having the skew out of the car. The downforce that they’ve taken off and the drag at Michigan is obviously way different. You’re going so much faster in the corner. That’s where the big difference was and how you drove the car. 

“You think about when a car is going 220 miles an hour, how aero sensitive it’s going to still be even though we’ve taken down force off. We’re still going very, very fast — which I think is great.    I like the fact that we can lift and come out of the gas and all of that, but I think the goal is to make the cars less aero sensitive. 

“I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction from what we had, for sure. I think we just need a little more fine-tuning on it. But I like that we’re making these changes and trying to figure out something better for racing and for fans. Directionally, we’re making the right moves for right now. I’m excited to see where the sport is going to go in the future.”

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