Testing Schedule Intensifies as Chase Nears
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 12, 2013 | 7:14 P.M. EST
Hendrick Motorsports saved all four of its allotted tests at NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks to be stronger late in the season. (Photo: Getty Images)
The most important moments of this year’s Chase could happen not on race day but during test sessions in the coming weeks.
Many NASCAR Sprint Cup teams saved some or all four of their allotted tests at Cup tracks to prepare for the Chase. Both Hendrick Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing kept their four tests for this point of the season. Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing each have three tests remaining. Those teams all will use some tests before the Chase begins next month at Chicagoland Speedway.
"You need to start the first race in Chicago knowing that you have something in your tank that you weren’t running leading up to the Chase, to feel like you have a shot at it," said Paul Wolfe, crew chief for defending series champion Brad Keselowski. "That’s what we had last year. When we started the race in Chicago, we had more speed in our car than we did in the races leading up to it and we carried that through the remaining 10 races."
Points leader Jimmie Johnson says he is ready to go testing.
"We have been preserving our tests, waiting for the right strategy and trying to think what is best for the company," he said. "Clearly, testing at Chase tracks is the best thing for that."
Hendrick Motorsports tests Tuesday and Wednesday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which hosts the second race in the Chase. Johnson qualified second there in July before his car failed inspection and he started at the rear. He rallied to finish sixth, but none of his teammates placed better than 10th.
Hendrick Motorsports also is scheduled to test Aug. 20-21 at Richmond International Raceway. That is to primarily help Jeff Gordon, 13th in the points, make the Chase.
Hendrick is one of several teams testing at Richmond.
Penske Racing will be there Aug. 19-20, as Keselowski races to make the Chase. His second-place finish at Watkins Glen moved him to eighth in the points, but he is 11 points ahead of 11th-place Kurt Busch. Without a win this season, Keselowski could fail to get a Wild Card - thus missing the Chase - if he falls out of the top 10 in points.
"We originally weren’t planning on Richmond," Wolfe said. "Obviously, the situation we’re in, it’s going to be close all the way to the end to get into the Chase."
Others scheduled to test at Richmond include Michael Waltrip Racing and Germain Racing. That will be the first test of the season at a Cup track for MWR.
"I think earlier in the season, we felt like we were pretty happy about where we stood," Martin Truex Jr. said. "We felt like we had some things in the pipeline that were going to be better for us that we were working on. I think that kind of got us behind a little bit the past month."
MWR also is scheduled to test at Chicagoland Speedway Aug. 27-28. They’ll be joined by Richard Petty Motorsports, Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Here’s a look at upcoming tests Cup teams have confirmed with tracks:
Richmond International Raceway
Aug. 19-20: Penske Racing, Germain Racing
Aug. 20-21: Hendrick Motorsports, Michael Waltrip Racing
Oct. 15-16: Goodyear Tire test for 2014 (teams to be determined)
Aug. 27-28: Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Penske Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing
Sept. 24-25: Goodyear Tire test for 2014 (teams to be determined)
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Aug. 13-14: Hendrick Motorsports
Sept. 3-4: Richard Childress Racing
Dover International Speedway
Sept. 9-10: Joe Gibbs Racing
Oct. 3: All Cup teams given a test day since Goodyear is bringing a new tire
Oct. 7-8: Roush Fenway Racing
Texas Motor Speedway
Oct. 14-15: Hendrick Motorsports
Phoenix International Raceway
Sept. 10-11: Goodyear Tire test with teams of Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Mark Martin