Tire Testing Underway
December 11, 2007 | 11:56 P.M. EST
On an unseasonably warm day at AMS, 2000 NASCAR Cup champion Bobby Labonte and three-time Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday hit the pavement testing tires for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
"I love the holidays, but it is great to be back in a truck," Hornaday, the October Craftsman truck race winner at AMS said. "It's awesome to come down here to a great track like Atlanta to test tires. We want to learn as much as we can so we can go fast, race side-by-side and put on another great show. We want to pack the stands here at AMS."
Hornaday tested his fully-decaled No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet Silverado, turning a fast lap of 178.723 mph (31.02 seconds).
Labonte, a six-time AMS winner, ran a gray primer Car around Atlanta Motor Speedway's high banks, recording a fast lap of 184.470 mph (30.09 seconds).
The test today gave Bobby Labonte and new crew chief Jeff Meendering the opportunity to work together for the first time. Meendering served as Jeff Gordon's car chief for the past two seasons at Hendrick Motorsports.
Testing continues tomorrow with Labonte and Hornaday scheduled to participate in another eight hour test.
NASCAR's elite drivers will attempt to tame the blistering speeds of Atlanta Motor Speedway during the Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup event on March 9.
Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, 2003 champion Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne and Travis Kvapil are taking part in the two-day test session at LVMS to help determine which tire will be used in the 2008 UAW-Dodge 400 at LVMS on March 2, 2008.
NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow (COT) will be utilized at all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tracks in 2008. The tire test is important since the COT - which has never been raced at LVMS - and its numerous design changes present new handling and aerodynamic challenges.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports, thought the first day of tire testing with the COT at LVMS went well.
"Actually, it felt pretty good," said Kahne, at the end of the sunny afternoon. "We tried a lot of different Goodyear tires and that's the main goal - to find something that will be really raceable when we come back in March. I think we made some gains on that. We're gonna do some more (testing) tomorrow. We'll see what happens. The COT seemed like it handled pretty good here. I think it's gonna be a good race when we come back here. I'm looking forward to it as long as we get the right tires."
Kasey was asked how the new COT compared to the "old" car he raced on the high banks here last March.
"There's definitely a difference. The more you drive it, the more you get used to it and kinda forget about the old car," said Kahne. "It's much different. It's kinda like taking a step back. From where we were with the old car to where we were with this one and now the more we work on this car the closer we're getting it back to where it needs to be. As time goes on, it'll be more advanced than the other car. It takes time, but it's getting better every time we get to practice with it."
Although this week's tire-testing session is not open to the public, race fans are invited to attend NASCAR Preseason Thunder for all NASCAR Sprint Cup teams at LVMS on Jan. 28-29. The speedway also will allow race fans access to the Neon Garage during testing. NASCAR Nationwide Series teams will test at LVMS on Jan. 30-31.