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Sprint Cup Series

Drivers find speed during Kentucky's final test day

RELATED: Harvick on revamped Kentucky: 'So far, so good'

PARTA, Ky. -- There was a bit more of a racing groove here at Kentucky Speedway for the second and final day of an organizational test for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, thanks in part to yesterday's on-track activity as well as high temperatures.

"It's changed a lot, really changed in a good direction," Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, said Tuesday. “Yesterday there was really no grip at all and it just took time. By the end of the day it was starting to get pretty good. Today there's even more rubber on the track.

"I think a good thing about this is it’s hot and the rubber is laying down. When we come back, hopefully it's hot. I think if it's hot it will create a much better race and let us kind of move around and lay more rubber on the race track."

The 1.5-mile track, owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., underwent a complete repave recently and this week’s activities are the first since work was completed.

In addition to the new asphalt, changes were also made to Turns 1 and 2, where the banking has been increased from 14 degrees to 17 degrees. The pit exit lane has been widened (from 14 feet to 30 feet), and as a result the width of the racing surface in 1 and 2 has shrunk from 74 feet to 56 feet.

Officials also rebuilt the drainage system underneath the facility to better handle water runoff and weepers that have created problems here in the past.

"Once you get in the gray (where no rubber has been put down) you just give up and wait until you get to the straightaway," Kahne explained. "If you don't, you will crash.

"Come race time it will be a lot different. More cars (on the track), you'll be able to move up more, but right now if you get all four up in the gray, you just kind of wait until you get back in the lane and then go."

Fourteen teams were on hand Monday, with only the No. 78 Toyota of Furniture Row Racing with driver Martin Truex Jr., not returning for the final day.

"It's a good test for us," Kahne said. "We needed some testing to run through a lot of different things, try stuff. There is a lot of data we'll be able to look at, I'll be able to look at and my teammates as well … to be a little bit more prepared when we do come back."

Kevin Harvick, quickest on Monday, continued to post the top unofficial lap times Tuesday, with lap times quickly dipping into the 28-second bracket during the morning session.

Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano and Kahne also posted sub-29 second laps.

"It's getting there," Logano, driver of the Team Penske No. 2 Ford and the series' most recent race winner, said of the track surface. "It's taken awhile, but it definitely is starting to grip up, which is good.

"Yesterday was like ice skating on dull blades down there (in Turns 3 and 4)."

The use of a different aggregate in the makeup of the asphalt and application of lime to help age the track and pull oil from the new surface "makes sense," Logano said.

"I think it might take a race or two to understand if it actually helps or not. Hopefully it does. But right now we're in the process of cleaning all that up.

"When you're laying rubber down the first time, it's so hard to judge what's going to happen because it's so different."

Tuesday's practice was slowed only twice by on-track incidents. Logano's Ford dropped fluid on the track near the end of the session for the first stoppage while Greg Biffle sustained damage to the rear of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in a separate incident.

This week's test is the first of five organizational tests for Sprint Cup Series teams this season. Only one team per organization is allowed to participate. Future tests this year are scheduled for Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 12-13), Watkins Glen International (July 26-27), Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 23-24) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 18-19).

The same aerodynamic package featuring a shorter rear spoiler that was used this past weekend at Michigan International Speedway is being used at Kentucky and will be in place when the series returns to compete here next month (July 7-9).

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are off this weekend and will be back in action June 26 for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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