MCMURRAY TESTS NEWLY RESURFACED POCONO
NASCAR.com - Mark Aumann
Expect the track record at newly repaved Pocono Raceway to fall when the Sprint Cup Series returns in June, according to the drivers involved in this week's Goodyear tire testing at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
But it's not necessarily the same reason why Michigan International Speedway proved lightning quick when cars had the chance to check out that facility's new asphalt surface. At Michigan, cars reached 215 mph at the end of the straightaways, carrying more straight line speed.
On Wednesday, Jamie McMurray was making the biggest gains in speed in Pocono's three long, flat corners.
"I think after Michigan, when guys were running 215 mph there, [there were questions about] how fast we'd be running into Turn 1 here," McMurray said. "And we don't seem to be running tremendously faster overall speeds. It's just that the corner speeds are way, way quicker."
How quick? Kasey Kahne was running consistent lap speeds more than 2 mph faster than Kahne's Cup qualifying record of 172.533 mph set in June 2004. And that was without all the little tricks used to squeeze every ounce of speed out of the car in qualifying trim.
A lot of that had to do with optimal weather conditions during the tire test. Cool temperatures make more horsepower, and the thermometer was struggling to break the 50-degree mark on Wednesday. Plus, the new surface has a tremendous amount of grip, according to Kahne.
"When we come back and race, it'll be a lot warmer, and that'll change the grip of the track a little bit," Kahne said. "As far as [Wednesday] goes, the old track record was around 52.16 [seconds] and I was running in the 51.50s in race trim."
While some tracks have been criticized for repaving, McMurray said Pocono was well overdue for a facelift, especially since it was the bumpiest track on the circuit.
Now it's a matter of adjustment, McMurray said, particularly when it comes to traditional braking and acceleration points.
"When you first go out on the track, after coming here for so many years, you have marks picked out on the wall where you brake and get back on the gas," McMurray said. "And it's really hard to make your brain and your foot and your butt want to drive in deeper and get back to the gas quicker because you know the car will stick."
Both drivers expressed concern about widening the racing groove in time for the Pocono 400 on June 10, but with two days of testing -- plus regular practice and qualifying -- Kahne said drivers "will get to make plenty of laps" by then.
For McMurray, the changes have changed his mind about Pocono. For once, he's looking forward to the trip.
"I hated this place," McMurray said. "This was my least favorite track to come to. I don't know, I never really cared for Pocono. And after the few laps [Wednesday], with the speed and the grip that it has -- from my perspective, I think most guys will like this a lot more."