4 October 2011
Cup drivers test at new-look Phoenix
"It's obviously very smooth," agreed Gordon. "Just trying to find the grip took a while, to get the track cleaned off, get the rubber laid in. Once we did, started having fun and enjoyed making the laps out there.
"It's going to be a narrow groove the first couple times we're here and it's going to take time and guys are going to have to push that edge, keep cleaning it off as we go," continued Gordon. "We're not racing [here today,] we're not getting side-by-side with other cars. So naturally you're just going to see one groove built in there. It is a very narrow groove right now. I hopped outside of it on more than one occasion today, and it was exciting to say the least."
"I think by the time we race here, it might not be two grooves, but it'll at least be a lane and a half," Smith told reporters.
"It takes time for these newly paved tracks and that's why we are here testing," agreed Pemberton. "The teams are experimenting with a lot of different options and that's what they need to do."
"We have to get laps on the race track, rubber on the race track and get used to it," said David Reutimann. "I think the more laps we get on it, the better it'll be - but right now it's pretty scary!"
"You know, all I can say is that my impressions, the day started off really, really edgy and uncomfortable, an eye-opening wow experience of 'Oh my gosh, what's happened here?'" agreed Gordon. "As we got halfway through the day, the grip started coming ... Then I started having more fun, enjoying the laps I was making, the challenges the track had."
Phoenix International Raceway hosts the penultimate race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season on November 13, and the race here on this new surface could prove a massive wildcard in the outcome of the 2011 Chase.
Phoenix previously hosted a Goodyear tyre development test at the end of August for Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch, but this is the first time that the track has been open to the majority of the teams and drivers.
In addition to familiarising teams with the new surface and layout of Phoenix, the two-day test session is also intended to allow them to undertake the latest stage of development of next year's Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) cars, scheduled to be introduced into Sprint Cup competition from the first race of 2012 - the Daytona 500.
The first test of EFI on restrictor plate circuits is scheduled to take place at Talladega Superspeedway on October 20, three days ahead of the Good Sam Club 500 Cup race.
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