After a 'slow' Tuesday, Wednesday sees speeds that would be record-setting
On Wednesday, they found it, with speeds reaching 211 mph as they tested at the 2-mile track in advance of the facility's June 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
"Raw speed,” Busch said. "This place is fast. It's fun. You always pull the belts down tight for your first lap out."
Busch’s top average speed around the two-mile oval was 195.865 mph with a top speed of 212 mph down the backstretch.
Bayne was nearly as fast on the second day of his test. He clicked off a lap at 193.500 mph with a top speed of 211.500 mph, well ahead of the track record of 203.241 mph set by Marcos Ambrose during qualifying for the June race at Michigan last season.
The Generation-6 car that debuted this season on NASCAR’s premier series has already set several new track records, including one last weekend by Busch at Darlington Raceway. The increased grip in the rear of the race car has made the vehicle consistently faster than its predecessor, something that’s been on display often during test sessions as well as race weekends.
At Michigan, though, Bayne and Busch were testing at a track that hasn’t seen action since the most recent Sprint Cup event there in August, and sat under a blanket of snow for most of the winter. A resurfacing project completed in late 2011 allowed Ambrose to record one of the fastest qualifying laps in NASCAR history at Michigan last June, but at Tuesday's test session the drivers were still working to coax speed out of the facility.
“The winters up here are a little harsher than most of the places, so we’re trying to get a feel for the Goodyear tires and the balance of this new Generation-6 car,” Busch said. “… There’s just a fine line right now of when you have that speed and can slip over the edge very easily, because the tires are still the conservative hard tires they had when the track was fast and they had more grip. The pace will be down (today) … but once we get all the cars out there, we’ll have to see how the pace picks back up.”
NASCAR relaxed its testing rules prior to this season, allowing four tests per organization. Stewart-Haas Racing was also testing Tuesday, with Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick taking part in a two-day session at Dover International Raceway. At tests teams are allowed to use data acquisition, which help them hone in on setups needed for the race weekend.
“We will work on making longer changes, things you can’t normally change during practice because you don’t have enough time,” Bayne said. “We will do big stuff and see what it does, and hopefully have a better direction of where to start when we come back. We don’t really work on balance … we try to get it close, and then try to work on the big stuff on the car. The balance changes so much with temperature and rubber on the track, so that will change when we come back here to race.”
Added Busch: “I’m glad we came to test. If we had to unload and work on this car in a quick hour and half, we would have been behind.”
To Bayne, the test also offered a chance to get ahead on a track that’s very important to the Wood Brothers, given that the headquarters of manufacturer Ford -- which has long supported the team through its Motorcraft brand -- is just 65 miles away in Dearborn.
“This would be a huge track for them,” the former Daytona 500 champ said. “Outside of the Brickyard and the Daytona 500, I would say this would be one of the biggest wins for the Wood Brothers, being that this is the home track of Ford. We always have everybody here, and it is a big deal to run good here. … That is kind of why we came to test here. To get a win here would be not quite the Daytona 500, but close.”
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