Passing Thoughts: Drivers Test Gen-6 Car For Texas Debut
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) – Records crumbled, numbers skyrocketed and emotions flared during the Gen-6 race car’s debut on the first two intermediate tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule – Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. And according to those who spoke today, expect more of the same during Saturday night’s race at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.
On Thursday, drivers tested the Gen-6 car at Texas Motor Speedway in preparation for the third intermediate installment, set for Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX, FOX Deportes, Motor Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio). Kurt Busch, a 2009 Texas winner, turned the fastest lap in the first session at 191.225 mph. Greg Biffle, a two-time winner at Texas, was fastest in the second session (192.864 mph).
“I honestly think we've had some of the best racing we've had in a decade,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, during the break between the two two-hour long test sessions. “I mean, they're really hard racing. …Vegas was an outstanding race. Best race we've had there. [Auto Club] Speedway, best race we've had there. It was an opportunity for us to start over in many ways, shapes or forms because we had everyone working together, so everyone started at a higher level when we handed this car off, very different than what we've done in the last decade.”
A well-worn Texas racing surface, combined with previous intermediate track performances of the Gen-6 Chevrolet SS, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion, had driver’s predicting a similar race to those held at Las Vegas and Auto Club Speedway. There were a track-record 31 green flag passes for the lead at Las Vegas, and a record-matching 41 at Auto Club Speedway.
“The car's definitely been different than we expected at some places and they put on a good race at the big tracks where we thought passing was going to be more difficult than we had last year,” said Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. “So far so good and hopefully it will be more of the same this weekend."
Biffle and Paul Menard both currently reside in the top 10 in series points, and both have had success at Texas. Biffle won last year’s spring race, and Menard collected one of his seven career top fives at Texas in 2011.
“The last time I drove this car was last year here and it has come so far since then,” said Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford. “It was definitely a handful then to drive and now the first few laps on the race track it has a lot of grip and is really fun to drive. You know, it is the same old Texas. We are sliding and a little loose and then tight and it is going to be a fun race.”
“So far, so good,” said Menard, driver of the No. 27 Quaker State / Menards Chevrolet. “We put a big emphasis on just making sure we unload good today and do all the right things with preparation to unload good. It’s hard if you’re looking for a half a second, it’s hard to make that up. But right now we’re just looking for a couple tenths. I feel good about how our speed is. We’ve got a lot of things left to try for these couple of hours in the afternoon session and try to get a little bit better.”