I was lucky enough to spend the last couple days watching the Cup Cars test at RIR and came back with some observations. First off, the cars are much faster than they were with the previous ‘car of tomorrow.’ The way the drivers drive the track is so much different than they did before.
Back in the day with Dale Jarrett and others won Richmond, the favorite line on the scanners was ‘float her in’ and ‘watch your brakes.’ Now, they dive deep into the turns. Although some do drive the track different.
Here’s my observations on the various makes:
When you start with the BowTie brigade, you have to start with Jimmie Johnson foremost. And since Hendrick Motorsports was the only Chevy team there, I only have my observations on the teams.
Jimmie? Well, Jimmie is Jimmie. Car looks smooth, bad ass fast, and has a different engine sound than the other three HMS cars. Not sure if it’s from the headers or a combination. However, what I did notice is he eats folks up getting into the turn because he backs it up…and then gets back on the gas earlier. Chad and the boys have it down to a science in getting the car the way Jimmie wants it.
Jr and Kasey Kahne I can lump together. Both had moments where they looked fast and other times they looked ho hum. Of the two, JR’s car looked faster but without a stopwatch I can’t prove it. I think they’ll run okay in 3 weeks.
Jeff Gordon…he looked the worst of the four. Even when he said ‘make no changes to the car’ he didn’t look fast. Very slow getting onto the gas off turn 2 and at RIR turn 2 makes or breaks your lap. Mess up 2 and your toast for that lap.
So I’d rank it 48-88-5-24 in that order.
No offense to Bad Brad, but I think Joey just flat out was running better. Now, maybe the blackish blue primer made 2 seem slower but I just never got the feel that his car was as fast as Joey’s.
Not to say that Joey’s didn’t have its ho-hum moments. It did when I got to the track around 4pmish. However, the longer the day went on, the faster it got. At one point he was visually faster than any other car on the track and was ‘handling down the backstretch’ equal to Jimmie.
Brad had his moments too when he was bad fast too.
Casey Mears’ team tested but it never seemed like they got going well. At first, they were geared too low and not handling. Then it seemed they changed gear and got fast…and then switched back at night and took a major step backwards.
There was a Fusion there in pure primer so I couldn’t tell who owned it (Penske or Germaine) but I can tell you this: it was bad fast when on the track. You could look at it and tell it was fast because the Hendrick cars were in same color primer so it was easy to compare against. JR had to hurry to get out of the way a couple times because the car was that fast.
So, ranking the Ford Guys: Primer Car, 22, 2, 13
Michael Waltrip Racing (Toyota)
Of the Toyota boys, both Truex Jr. and Bowyer were fast at times too. During a 30 lap simulated race, he pulled away from JJ and the boys (even though Logano came out late and ran everyone down but 56 by the end. 22 passed everyone including JJ having started a straightaway behind)until deciding it was time to hit the garage. So, he ran good.
Bowyer’s car looked smooth off turn 2 a bit more than 56 but both were running good.
Almendinger in 55. Never seemed that fast, but in his defense, he had to hop into a car on short notice and run a test with a team he’s not familiar with. I’m not going to knock him for that. If Vickers had been in the car, I might’ve been able to get a better feel.
Ranking: 56, 15, 55
We’ll have to wait for race weekend to see who will win, but I think 48, 22, 2, 5, 88, 56, 15 have to be considered at the top of the list. Gordon might surprise me but I’m not expecting much and JR? He can be hit or miss. Given the need for a Chase spot, I’m guessing he and Steve Letarte are going to ‘hit’ more than ‘miss.’
I hope everyone has fun at the race. J