Johnson Tuning Up For Season

For the second consecutive season, Team Lowe's Racing made the long journey west to test on the 1.5-mile oval of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Driver Jimmie Johnson and nine Team Lowe's crewman made the trek to Nevada to test the new No. 48 Chevy Monte Carlo's body style on an intermediate track, which is the type of racetrack that the majority of the Winston Cup races are held on.

"With the type of weather we've had out on the east coast the last couple of weeks, we had to come out west to make sure that we didn't compete with the ice and snow," said Johnson, during Monday's lunch break. "At Vegas, we know we'll get a good environment. There will be a lot of cars out here to gauge off of and see where we're at in the new Monte Carlo body style. It's a great place to come out and get some consistent data and get a couple good days on the race track."

Team Lowe's Racing did not waste an opportunity to feature its hardware during practice on Monday. It posted the fastest unofficial lap of the 13 drivers who tested Winston Cup cars in race trim at 168.161 miles per hour (32.112 seconds).

"We had a good day of practice on Monday," stated crew chief Chad Knaus. "Coming into this test we just wanted to make sure that we continued to shake down the new body style and make gains throughout the session. We needed to come into here and improve on our qualifying runs and look for speed out of this new body. Last season here we started 25th, so we really need to improve on that and get good data that will help us on tracks that are similar to this 1.5 mile oval."

The Las Vegas test session marks the second time Team Lowe's Racing has tested this season - NASCAR's "Preseason Thunder" three weeks ago was the first. The No. 48 race car posted the 44th fastest time out of 53 race cars during both Daytona test sessions. This is a far cry from where the Lowe's team was last season, when it was on top of the speed charts following the session, which lead to the pole for the Daytona 500.

Unlike a year ago, the Lowe's team has the luxury of not having to show everything it has from the start, since the team has provisionals to fall back on if something were to happen like bad weather or an accident.

"We had to come out of the box with everything we had (last season) and play our game up front to make sure that we honestly knew where we were at," said Johnson. "This year, we are a little bit more conservative. We've got a little bit more room to wiggle. But, I feel everyone in the garage area does, as well. We're not really sandbagging or doing anything like that in that respect. The biggest challenge we have right now is we're learning a brand new car."

Heading into his second test session, Johnson feels like Las Vegas will be a better indication on what the season has in-store for the Lowe's team.

"It's so early that with all the changes that happen each year, this (track) is a true test of what you have for your downforce package," mentioned Johnson. "Rockingham is hard to tell because the track is so rough, and there's so much mechanical grip involved. When we get to Vegas, it's a lot more aero-dependant track, so it's our first real try at seeing what we have for our downforce cars. With that in mind, a lot of people come here and test."

With NASCAR's new rule change with tests, Johnson knows that each test is now magnified because of the limited number.

"Our test sessions are so valuable - we only have five now in the (NASCAR) Winston Cup Series," Johnson continued. "Coming from our rookie year last year where we had 12 (tests), we tested a lot more and had a lot more opportunities to figure out our race car. Now, we have to make the most of every test that we have."

The Lowe's team backed up Monday's solid session posting the fastest lap time on Tuesday at 168.666 miles per hour (32.016 seconds). Team Lowe's Racing is hoping to come out of the gates hard for the start of the season in Daytona and carry the momentum it gained from the Las Vegas test into the intermediate tracks the first half of the season.

"We accomplished everything we set out to for this test session," said Knaus, standing at the track in the dark on Tuesday. "We learned a lot from here and we'll take valuable information back to the shop and hopefully be able to apply this to the intermediate tracks early in the season. We are still in the learning process with the new Monte Carlo body style, but this session moved us closer to fine tuning the Lowe's Chevrolet."

Next MRN Broadcast

On Air Now
Jan. 23, 2018 7:00 PM ET

Upcoming Cup Broadcasts

© 2018 MRN. All Rights Reserved

FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousLinkedInGoogle BookmarksYahoo BookmarksLive (MSN)

ISC Track Sites