Dale Earnhardt Jr tests at Michigan International Speedway - NASCAR photoEnlarge Photo
For the second week in a row, NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series has had pre-race practice at a recently repaved track. This week it's Michigan International Speedway that hosted the Cup teams as that surface has been redone and now can boast average speeds for the four top car/drivers in excess of 200-mph. This is the first time since 1995 that the MIS track has received a fresh coat of 22,000-tons of asphalt.
Evergreen Mark Martin was quickest on the new MIS surface in the No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, putting down his 201.089-mph lap in the cool, prime morning temperatures. The balance of the Michigan 200-mph club were Kevin Harvick in the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet at 200.999, Martin Truex Jr's No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota with 200.306 and Dale Earnhardt Jr's No. 88 Mountain Dw/The Dark Knight Rises/National Guard Chevrolet's lap of 200.206
Now the teams will practice, qualify and race on this new asphalt and with more rubber down, it's possible the track could get slower, but that depends on the weather, as always. During the warmer afternoon session, Tony Stewart drove the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy to a top speed of 201.896 mph with a total of seven drivers over the 200-mph barrier. For the day, Mark Martin had the best 10-consecutive-lap average of 197.434 mph.
"It is quite a rush for the driver to be going this fast," said Jimmie Johnson, the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. "There seems to be a good combination with the new surface and the tire that Goodyear brought. I feel comfortable in the car, although it's still quite the challenge as a driver to get around at these high speeds."
NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton noted the positive driver feedback: "We're getting good reports from the teams on how the new surface is doing. The morning test conditions were optimum for posting the fast speeds. With the cool temperatures and the track conditions, we're pretty sure these are the fastest speeds we are going to see at this track.
"Once the track takes on more rubber and the temperatures go up (expected to approach 90 degrees over the weekend), you should see the speeds go down some," Pemberton said.
John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director, said that from a technical standpoint, things were checking out well following the morning session. “Just like last week at Pocono, with the new repave, we want to make sure we have the gear ratio correct, cooling issues are nonexistent and from a technical side, all systems are go,” he said. “When a track gets a facelift like this, you have to make sure all things check out and we have seen that they do.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series hits the track Friday at 8:30AM EDT for its first of three practice sessions. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams resume practice again tomorrow at 12:30 PM EDT.