Teams hit track for first test of 2015

With no private team testing, Las Vegas test takes on more importance

RELATED: NASCAR sets 2015 testing schedule

Goodyear officials put the finishing touches on its tire test for this year’s NASCAR race weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Monday, while four Sprint Cup teams participating in the one-day event hit the track for the first time this season.

AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota) and Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford) took part in the test, one of 14 scheduled by the tire supplier for the upcoming season.

While Goodyear was focused on its product, the teams were eager to see how their intermediate track package would react with a 2015 rules package that features less horsepower and downforce.

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Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR premier series champion, said the test was an opportunity to "get the rust knocked off" as he and his JGR team head into the new year after a winless 2014 campaign.

"We’ve got a lot of new guys on the team, so just trying to get those guys to work together, try to get a decent balance (in the car), help Goodyear … figure out what they want to do," he said. "And hopefully have a little bit of time left over to work on some stuff ourselves."

How much of an advantage Monday’s track time will prove to be when the series returns in March remains to be seen.

"For us, we didn’t run particularly well last year, we’ve got a new nose on the Camry this year, new rules changes, aero package and all that stuff so we’re just trying to get it sorted out … trying to find a baseline and try to hopefully find something that drives good so we have something that’s decent when we come back here."

MORE: Horsepower reduction among 2015 rules package changes | Fast facts about new rules package

NASCAR banned private team testing for ’15, but collaborated with teams and Goodyear officials to develop the National Series Unified Testing Policy, a program that will provide track time for teams after the completion of Goodyear tire tests.

That limited track time has placed more emphasis on this year’s tests.

"Last year at this time I think we had three or four tests on our plate and here we are with one until we go to Daytona," Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Keselowski, said. "So yeah, (it’s) a very important test for us.

"We got some information. I feel like Goodyear felt like they got what they needed and hopefully we can come back there and have a good race."

All four of the teams testing made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last season, with Kenseth and Keselowski, the 2012 champion, falling one round short of making it into the Championship Round.

The season, Keselowski said, "was pretty much everything you could ask for … other than winning the Sprint Cup championship.

"To know we were right there … it’s certainly something we’re proud of. But we can’t look back; we’ve got to look forward. We’ve got a massive challenge in front of us to try to have a year as successful as we did in 2014 and to be even more successful to run for a championship.

"In that light we have to keep looking forward and keep developing and that’s why we’re here today – to develop our cars, develop our team to hopefully be the best."

The NASCAR Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series seasons begin next month at Daytona International Speedway.

The first open team test for the Sprint Cup Series is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 26, prior to the race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.