Teams Complete Vegas Test

Kevin Harvick

Harvick posted his fast time (28.399 seconds, 190.148 mph) on his 42nd and final lap. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

Testing Speeds

LAS VEGAS - Sprint Cup teams completed an important day of testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that will not only set the stage for the season, but also for the Kobalt 400 race weekend.

Sunday's 267-race will mark the first of 11 races on the schedule on 1.5-mile tracks, with five of them coming in the Chase. Teams tested the 2014 rules package a day early for a four-hour session before practice starts on Friday.

Kevin Harvick, who won three mock races when the series held a test at Charlotte Motor Speedway in December to help set the rules, topped the speed chart today with a lap of 190.148 mph. But for last week’s Phoenix winner it didn’t come quick as the team had to tune on the car all day.

"I think the best thing that happened today was the car didn't run very fast at the beginning," Harvick said. "We had to kind of abort on what we were doing and go a different route. The next route was not as good. The third route finally wound up being good. I think those are good things for us because it gives us direction when we go to other 1.5-mile tracks. We won't have to do like what we did today. We can get to what has been working for us and go straight from there."

Rookie Austin Dillon (189.540), Trevor Bayne (188.620), Ryan Newman (188.403) and Danica Patrick (188.245) rounded out the top five.

Rule changes for this season include eliminating the pre- and post-race front height rules and inspections. The package also contains a square leading edge on the splitter, side skirt and rear fascia adjustments and an eight-inch rear spoiler to go along with a 43-inch by 13-inch radiator pan.

"There's a bit of a learning curve," said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development. "I think the Harvick team, the No. 4 car, they've got it figured out already, and some of the other guys are struggling.

"The package we put together is going to be used on all the tracks except the superspeedways, so at Phoenix we began to see a glimpse, but obviously since that's only a mile track, the speeds are a lot lower. They could probably only harvest maybe 30 to 40 percent of the capability of the package, so really this will be the first race where we get to see they can fully exploit the aerodynamic and the chassis changes. So we'll see what happens.

"But having said that, we can't jump too quickly and say that this is the answer because as you saw, some teams will take some time to figure it out. I think the aero piece of it, it's pretty much set. It's just a matter of getting the driver to find the limit and feeling comfortable with the aero, but the chassis, the engineers will play around with it for a while until that settles down, then the driver will begin to find the sweet spot and get comfortable. Probably it will take probably we won't have a good feeling where all this lands until we get about three under our belt, and that would be the Texas race. That's the way I'm feeling."

One of the teams that struggled today was Roush Fenway Racing. Both Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle have solid average finishes in the seven races on Vegas' current track configuration with Edwards winning two races, but the team couldn't find speed in the test. Edwards along with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Biffle were 27th, 29th and 34th fastest, respectively. Last year, Roush Fenway failed to win on a 1.5-mile track. 

“I think we recognized, we talked over the winter or at the end of last season that our intermediate track program really suffered and that was the flagship of Roush Fenway," Biffle said. "Our focus was, or at least mine was, let’s get back on track at the intermediates and then we’ll be a threat. It’s painfully apparent that that’s not – and today, it’s a half-second, so we could find some things with the car that’s not right. These cars are really, really finicky. We know that, so that speed could just come up somewhere and that’s what we’re hoping for.”

Rookie Cole Whitt led for a portion of the afternoon as his No. 26 Swan Racing team was concentrating on qualifying trim.

"We are not locked-in on points so we've got to go," said Whitt, who wound up sixth fastest. "I think we have a decent car, plenty good to be able to get in. We had a little bit of ups and downs but it's hard to get comfortable with only two laps."

Joey Logano, who was 14th fastest, completed the most laps in the test with 113.

The caution flag was displayed twice for when Brian Vickers, who had a fast car early, scraped the wall and then for a spin by Dave Blaney.

Friday's first practice session will begin at 2 p.m. ET.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kevin Harvick

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