Speeds Soar in Michigan Test


Mark Martin (left) and Carl Edwards discuss the new track surface at Michigan International Speedway during a break in Thursday's open test session. (Photo: Getty Images)


Updated at 4:50 p.m. (ET)

Nine drivers surpassed the 200-mile per hour mark Thursday during an open test session on the newly paved oval at Michigan International Speedway.

Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart led the way in his No. 14 Chevrolet with a top speed of 201.896 mph.  Greg Biffle was next at 201.556 mph with Kurt Busch third at 201.174 mph.

Others lapping the two-mile oval at 200 mph-plus were Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.

"As wide as the track is, it'll be interesting to see what groove becomes the preferred line," Bowyer said, "where you can move around and hopefully, where you can pass.  It feels like running Nationwide (Series) cars to me.  There's not a lot of throttle response.  It doesn't slow down a whole lot in the center of the corner and just continues the speed all the way through the lap."

The track qualifying record at MIS is 194.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in June 2005.  All 43 drivers who participated in the test session Thursday afternoon were faster than Newman's seven-year-old mark as preparations continue for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400.  Sprint Cup Series points leader Matt Kenseth was 14th and defending race winner Denny Hamlin was 28th.

"I don't know what a restrictor plate race would be like at a track like this," Bowyer said in reference to Thursday's high speeds.  "This is the first time a track this size has been repaved like this since I've been in the sport.  It's amazing how much difference it's made.  The center-corner speed is so much greater than it used to be."

Weekend practice will officially open Friday at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) with qualifying Saturday afternoon to set the field for the Quicken Loans 400.  Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Sunday's race starting at 12 p.m. with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

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