NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers explain why speeds are up when horsepower is down at Las Vegas

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NASCAR has cut about 125 horsepower from Sprint Cup cars, yet Jeff Gordon set a track record in qualifying Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. So how is that possible?

Let drivers explain.

“The teams are just so good at getting some of that back,’’ said Gordon, whose pole-winning lap of 194.679 mph topped Joey Logano’s former record of 193.278 mph set last year. “When you can hold it wide open like that, it’s amazing at just how good the cars stick. What’s even crazier is the tire is harder than (last year). That’s the downside I think, to this whole package is that the goal is to slow the cars down through the middle of the corners so that we can get some softer tires in there and see more falloff and hope that you see a little bit more passing and side-by-side (racing).

“But because of the corner speeds being so fast, Goodyear has to make (the tire) harder. So, I think that they’ve taken a step and now they’re going to see how it works, and I think the racing is going to be really good and the action is going to be really good, so from that standpoint, I like it. But it’s a learning experience, and I think that NASCAR will gather that information.’’

Kevin Harvick said last week at Atlanta that cars were running about 11 mph faster in the middle of the corners than they had there last year.

“Any time you take top end speed away from a car, the corner speeds go up,’’ said Logano, who qualified second for Sunday’s race. “You don’t have to slow down as much through the corners because your top speed is slower.’’

Another key is the reduction in downforce – about 24 percent. That helps the car cut through the air better, making up for the lost horsepower.

Carl Edwards says he hopes NASCAR takes more downforce away.

“What’s happening is as you remove horsepower, there’s just less time off the throttle,’’ said Edwards, who qualified 14th. “Eventually, if you keep taking more horsepower away and the teams keep finding more and more downforce, it will be impossible to pass. So NASCAR has to stay ahead of that curve.

“They’re working on it. We tested a package that is even lower downforce than this, and I hope and pray every day that that’s the direction we go because I believe that’s what the fans deserve. I think that’s what’s going to provide the best racing and NASCAR has been headed that direction.”