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Heat at Indianapolis test helps teams gather applicable data

Indianapolis Motor Speedway testing

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a second day of testing here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday in preparation for next week's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard.

The 23rd running of the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is scheduled for Sunday, July 24 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Wednesday's session, originally scheduled to last until 5 p.m., was shortened by one hour due to the threat of inclement weather. Teams worked through the lunch hour to adjust and get through their individual checklists.

That the organizational test took place just one week before this year's race was a bonus for the dozen teams participating.

"I wish more tests were like this where you come the week before," said Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. "A lot of times you test at a track three months before the race and the climate's different, the track is not the same as when you test, and you forget a lot of stuff you learn technique-wise as a driver before you come back. To be this close to the race, I wish more were like that."

"For sure the temps have to be similar," six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson said. "It's nice being this close, absolutely."

Johnson's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was fastest, unofficially, during Tuesday morning's session, and had the top overall speed at the close of Wednesday as well. Larson, fastest in Tuesday's afternoon run, was second after Wednesday's combined effort.

"We opened up both days really strong but in the heat of the day, this track changes so dang much," Johnson said. "I feel that we learned more about the heat of the day on the second day. We're still not where we want to be. But at the start of the day, we're so stinking fast it's a bit of a letdown once the track heats up. It slips away a little bit.

"I didn't realize the race doesn't start until 3 p.m. so maybe that will work in our wheelhouse, kind of bring some of the grip back. But this place is so tough to get right, especially in the heat of the day."

Temperatures reached 87 degrees on Tuesday at the 2.5-mile track and 89 Wednesday.

"We've got to get home and digest everything," Johnson said. "We made a lot of runs. We went through a ton of tires, ran a lot of laps."

Larson said his team "made pretty big improvements" during the two days.

"Today we were good at times and then we'd get loose," he said. "We kind of knew what adjustments to make to get the car back to being good. This place loses a lot of grip when it gets hot out, based off sun popping out or clouds covering up the sun. You'll have more grip for a few laps, the sun comes you and you lose grip again.

"But I thought we were comparable to the 48, the 20 (Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing) and your normal fast guys."

Series points leader Kevin Harvick had the third fastest unofficial lap in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet Wednesday, followed by Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota).

"We learned a little bit," Rodney Childers, Harvick's crew chief, said. "We're going to bring a different car back next week.

"Normally when we test here it's cool and the track is a lot faster than it is when we come back. This is about as hot as it's ever been when I've been here. So the track is really slick and slowing down when the tires get hot. I definitely think we learned a lot though."

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