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Cup drivers test at new-look Phoenix

Cup drivers have been having their first real opportunity to try out the new-look Phoenix International Raceway, after a major remodelling and repaving project that began in March.
Phoenix International Raceway has been hosting its first full test session since the completion of the major repaving and reconfiguration project that began in March and which was finished in mid-August.

As well as a complete repaving of the 1-mile oval track, there have been a series of changes to the track layout intended to promote more side-by-side racing and that should improve lap speeds by 2-3mph.

Changes include widening the front stretch from 52 to 62 feet; reconfiguring pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls; pushing the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet while tightening the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet; and changing the banking - with 10-11 degrees between turns 1 and 2 and in the apex of the dog-leg, and 8-9 degrees in turn 4.

"This is a brand new facility," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "These teams will have to throw out their notebooks and start over."

"Nice to have that wide front straightaway," said Jeff Gordon. "I like the new pit road, as well. Getting used to the dogleg now on the back straightaway, which is quite a bit different than what it was before."

"The only place that seems familiar to me is Turn 3," agreed Regan Smith after his early laps on the raceway, on the first of two days of scheduled testing at the new-look Phoenix.

"The exit of Turn 2 is very unique; very different," commented Jeff Burton. "The back straightaway has a lot of banking and it's like falling into a hole; it's pretty cool and it is neat to do something different here."

"It's cool with the new banking," contributed David Ragan. "There is a little bit more speed."

As with any newly-repaved race track, there will be a period where the new surface is settling and sealing, and it will also need a lot of rubber to be laid down to allow the drivers to start feeling comfortable with it again.

"Anytime you repave a race track you always have that 6-8 month period where the asphalt is wearing," said Ragan. "It is curing and it is coming into its own. It gives us a hard time to figure it out, but the track will only get better with time."




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Mike Skinner, driving a Michael Waltrip Racing Electronic Fuel Injection NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car, pulls onto pit road during a test on Tuesday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images for NASCAR]
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers David Ragan and Joey Logano test the repaved and reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway on Tuesday in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition, (R) and Dave Handy, NASCAR Tyre Engineer, walk the new backstretch at Phoenix International Raceway on Tuesday in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his eighth Phoenix win with his crew Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR.  (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to his eighth Phoenix win with Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS who finished in sixth place Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Harvick won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was his 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, takes the chequered flag for his eighth Phoenix win Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his eighth Phoenix win Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy / Haas Automation Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, beats Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, to the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with the winner`s decal on his car in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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