Drivers Participate in First Test of 2018

Chase Elliott

Elliott turned the first laps in Chevrolet's new Camaro ZL1.


Four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers hit the track for the first time in 2018 during a Goodyear Tire test session on Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. are taking part in the two-day test. Elliott turned the first laps in Chevrolet's new Camaro ZL1, which replaces the SS model the manufacturer has competed with since the start of the 2013 season.

"It’s hard to tell what the changes are when you're out there by yourself," Elliott said. "They'll become more apparent, hopefully, when we get to ... say, Atlanta ... or get to some of the tracks where the changes are going to become important. Out there making laps, it's so hard to tell until we get into those situations and get some races under our belt, not only as an organization but as a manufacturer as a whole to see exactly how we stack up."

The test also marked the return of the No. 9 for Elliott, the same number he won the 2014 XFINITY Series championship with and his father, Bill, drove to the 1988 Cup Series championship.

"I’m lucky and honored to carry the number that I’ve carried for a number of years before this year. It's like getting back home to me," said Elliott, who drove the No. 24 the past two seasons in Cup. "I wish it did make us go faster. I'd love that but unfortunately, car numbers don’t."

Almirola got behind the wheel of the No. 10 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing for the first time and Blaney is testing the No. 12 for Team Penske after making the move from Wood Brothers Racing in the off-season.

"Anytime change is introduced it's fresh, it's new and it's exciting," Almirola said. "It breaks the monotony. For the last six years over the off-season, there hasn’t been a lot to do - my seats and all that have stayed the same, a lot of my guys on my team stayed the same. This year, it's been completely the opposite. New seats, new team, new cars, new people and new names to learn. I've been at the shop a lot."

Last season, Truex dominated at 1.5-mile tracks en route to winning the championship, including a second-place finish at Texas in the fall.

"It felt good to be back in the car," Truex said. "It felt like it was yesterday that we were on the track racing still."

Goodyear is using the two-day test to figure out the tire combination to bring for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 on April 8, which will mark the third race since the track was repaved and reconfigured.

"Both races here for a repave were pretty good and really competitive," Truex said. "Hopefully, we can try and find a tire to get that second groove to come in a little bit earlier, especially in Turns 1 and 2."

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