Notebook: Busy Test Schedule

Greg Biffle

Greg Biffle is among the many drivers testing this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo: Homestead-Miami Speedway)

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Nearly every driver eligible for the championship is testing today and Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of the season finale.

Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing are there with each of their teams.

Ryan Newman is the only driver among the eight left competing for the championship not at the test. Richard Childress Racing already has used all four tests teams are allowed at tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup races. 

This test will have different meanings for different teams. 

Jimmy Makar, senior vice president of racing operations at Joe Gibbs Racing, said that Kyle Busch likely will spend one day focused on this year’s race and the other day testing the 2015 configuration since he’s no longer eligible for the title. Makar said that Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth will do little testing with the 2015 package since they remain in contention for the title. 

NASCAR will ban testing after this season - other than Goodyear tire tests - so teams are spending some time on 2015 setups at this test.               

“The little bit we’ve done so far, the aero change is minimal as far as needing to adjust the car,’’ Makar said. “As far as setups go, they’ll change a little bit. Some of these places where have any kind of significant braking where we rely on the engine to slow the car down ... they’ll be less of that because the gear ratios are changing too.’’

Those will be among things teams will have to work through for next season. 

Team Penske has both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowksi in title contention, so the team will spend little time with the 2015 rules package. They can take information from other Ford teams that have tested that setup.

With 16 teams testing at Homestead, it can provide a clue as to who could be fast. Of course, all those other teams can see what the fast cars are doing.

That doesn’t worry Travis Geisler, competition director at Team Penske.

“The more realistic the track gets the better as far as in trying to learn valuable information,’’ Geisler said. “If you feel like you’re the team that can make better decisions, then having the track more like it’s going to race is better for you.’’

Tire Testing 

Four teams also are taking part in a Goodyear tire test today and Wednesday at Auto Club Speedway. 

Testing are Trevor Bayne, Brian Vickers, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. They’ll testing with the 2015 rules package on their cars. 

It won’t be the final tire test of the year.

There’s a tire test scheduled in December at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Goodyear officials also are considering a Las Vegas test but the question is if everything can be done to test after the season and still have enough time to make new tires, if needed, for the March race there. 

Goodyear’s Stu Grant, general manager of worldwide racing, says that the rule changes for next year reduce downforce on the car and will allow the manufacturer to work in other areas of the tire. 

“We’re looking forward to the 2015 rules ... because it allows us to maybe do something a little more on the tire package for improved grip and handling instead as opposed to just trying to make sure you handled the load and the speed and so on,’’ he said.

Grant said there won’t be a new tire for Atlanta, which has moved to the second race of the season. 

“It’s such an abrasive racetrack, we’ve had to go to that zone tread, to get a good combination of durability, grip and tire wear,’’ Grant said. “It took us so long to arrive at that setup that we’re going to stick with that setup and race that in 2015 with the new rules. If we need to make a chage after that, we will. We will stick with that setup because it’s a proven setup for grip, durability and wear.’’

Pressure

Brad Keselowski said after his 31st-place finish last weekend at Martinsville that “this kind of puts us in a position now where we’re going to need to win.’’

It’s not new for Keselowski, who faced the same situation in the previous round. He had to win at Talladega to advance to this round. 

“It’s been tough, but it builds character and makes us stronger,’’ Keselowski said of his situation. “With this format, we’re by no means out.’’

The challenge for Keselowski, though, is that he’s never won a Cup race at Texas  or Phoenix, the remaining races in this round. 

Keselowski nearly changed that at Texas in April. He led 85 laps but finished 15th because of a speeding penalty on the last pit stop with seven laps left.

Pit Stops

Three times a Chase driver has scored a top-five finish after a penalty for speeding on pit road. Kyle Busch placed third at Kansas, Jeff Gordon was second at Martinsville and Ryan Newman was third at Martinsville. ... Kyle Busch is entered in the Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s the 10th time in his career he’s entered all three series in the same weekend. ... Six of the last seven Cup winners at Texas started in the top five. ... The final green-flag stretch has been 16 laps or less in the three of the last four Texas races.  ... Joey Logano has a series-best 5.9 average finish in the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

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