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Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates were among those who tested at New Hampshire Motor Speedway before this weekend. (Photo: Getty Images)


LOUDON, N.H. - Hendrick Motorsports was here. So was Richard Childress Racing. And Chip Ganassi Racing. Don’t forget about Michael Waltrip Racing, which won this event a  year ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Each organization used one of its four tests allowed at tracks that host a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

With New Hampshire holding the second race in the Chase, the move isn’t surprising other than it came before this race instead of the September event.

The decision was easy for Hendrick Motorsports, which has three tests left, to come to New Hampshire last month. Hendrick only placed two of its four cars in the top 10 in either New Hampshire race last year, although Kasey Kahne was strong in the Chase race until an incident late.

“If you lock-in early, that helps your strategy and you can look more toward the end of the year,’’ Johnson said of deciding which tracks to test. “But something teams also look at is where we are the weakest as an organization. Where do the four crew chiefs and drivers get the most frustrated? For Chase-related race tracks, this is one of them for us. That’s why the decision was made as a group. All four drivers and crew chiefs agreed; yeah, let’s go do Loudon. We need to work there.’’

The New Hampshire test was the second of the year for Ganassi, MWR and RCR. All three teams tested previously at Pocono in late May. 

Team Penske, though, has not used any of its four tests for Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

“We are stockpiling them because we are both in and we are going to go to the tracks we feel we need to test the most,’’ Logano said. “We are still discussing that and scheduling what we need to do. It is important for us to definitely think about that and not just at the tracks that we need it the most but the timing of it. 

“It is very hard for the teams to be prepared coming into a race after a test week. You kind of get in your normal rhythm of what you do during the week before the race track and when you throw a two-day test in there it gets strenuous on the guys and being prepared as a driver and crew chief and team. We did a few back-to-back tire tests a few weeks ago and it was very tough to get back at the race track and feel prepared and feel like we were ready to go.’’

Yet, one driver who didn’t test at New Hampshire wishes his team did.

“I feel like our short track program has been off the last couple years,’’ said Denny Hamlin after winning the pole for Sunday’s race. “Trust me, I was trying to talk my teammates into testing here, but they had other ideas of where they wanted to test so we jumped on that bandwagon with them and obviously have some pretty good results here just in qualifying so far for the weekend. But, trust me I would have liked to test here for sure.”

Most teams are expected to test at Homestead-Miami Speedway since the championship will be determined there. 

Brian Vickers, the defending winner of Sunday’s race, isn’t sold on the value of testing.

“I have mixed feeling about testing in general,’’ he said. “If we were the only person that got to test here then I’d feel really good about it, but seeing how everyone tested here really the only difference is that the teams just spent a whole lot of money. That’s pretty much the difference.

“I don’t know that the outcome is going to change. Like if we all come here and test then we’re all essentially probably making gains. Maybe one group makes a few more gains than the other group, but I don’t know that the outcome changes a lot and I certainly don’t think that the fan experience changed a lot. It’s just the teams spend millions of dollars and will never see that money back.”

Roush Fenway Racing is scheduled to test later this month at Michigan and that would be the team’s first test. Richard Petty Motorsports and JTG Daugherty are scheduled to test later this month at Watkins Glen. It will be the third test for each team.

“Our mindset going into the year was to use all four of our tests if we have to before the Chase starts because we want to get into the Chase,’’ said Aric Almirola, who is headed for the Chase after his Daytona win last weekend. “That is what it was about for us. We didn’t feel it would do us any good to save a couple of our tests or one of our tests for the Chase if we didn’t make it.’’

Testing, though, doesn’t always prove as beneficial. Rookie Austin Dillon qualified 23rd. Dillon said that they had an older version of the tire used here this weekend and said it wasn’t as “soft” as the tire they tested and that impacted their setup.

“What our test helped was no help here,’’ Dillon said. 


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