Sam Hornish Jr. said a Wednesday spent at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sprint Cup Series testing played out much like the first nine races of the 2015 season.
“We found the same trends as we’ve generally had with our cars this year, when the track conditions are cool and there’s grip,” Hornish said.
His No. 9 Ford was fast, running a lap of 47.65 seconds.
Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet was little bit better at 47.60.
“We thought we were pretty good,” said the Richard Petty Motorsports driver.
Then Kevin Harvick took to the track.
“The 4 unloads and runs a 47.30,” Hornish said of the Stewart-Haas Team that’s won two races in 2015 and finished in the top two in seven races. “As the day goes on and the track temperatures comes up, we start losing turn with our cars, so there’s a lot of work we need to do at RPM as far as getting the cars where they need to be.”
The test, which was preceded by two-day tire test for Goodyear, is the first opportunity for teams to try the rules package at the 2.5-mile track before the Brickyard 400 race weekend on July 24-26. The teams drove under an overcast sky in cool temperatures, which Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards says proved beneficial.
“This track is unlike any other track we go to, but it is so smooth and so fast it gives you an opportunity to really test pretty well,” Edwards told reporters. “The temperatures today, the slight overcast, they’re kind of keeping things constant throughout our test.”
The common theme from Edwards and Hornish is that the new rules package, with provides less horsepower and downforce, means drivers will be in the gas more going through corners.
“There’s a lot of on-throttle time, we’re very fast through the middle of the corner,” Edwards said, describing coming off the corners early in the day at 190 mph before temperatures heated up.
“I think in Turns 2 and 4, we were only down to 60 percent throttle with no break,” said Hornish, who won the 2006 Indianapolis 500. “It’s not quite an IndyCar yet, but for a 3,5000 pound stock car, it’s pretty much on the edge as far what it feels like and how much the cars move around and the ability you’re going to have to be able to catch the car if it does step out underneath you.”
Edwards explained there’s not much difference between a car’s high and low speeds with the rules package, which will impact passing.
“Because of the speeds here and the way the way the track is laid out, it’s been a tough place to pass,” Edwards said. “You have to come here and deal with it.”
Navigating the short chutes between Turns 1-2 and 3-4 correctly will be the key to passing in race conditions.
“You set up your car into Turn 1 and into Turn 3 so that you can run into that short chute and set up your exit onto the long straightaways,” Edwards said. “Once you’re on the straightaway, you’re wide open. It becomes a dyno race.”
Hornish said the speeds caused by the rules package has drivers eager for a set up that keeps the less downforce but introduces more horsepower.
“You’re going to continue to hear about it until it goes that direction or the drivers quit talking about it,” Hornish said. “It puts us in a position when you have this no-throttle time, Goodyear is forced to bring us a harder tire. That harder tire usually wants more camber so that people run it up on edge more.”