The garages at Atlanta Motor Speedway were crowded Tuesday as 14 NASCAR teams prepared for the new tires, new impound rules and new spoiler heights that will be in effect for the March 18-20 Golden Corral 500.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers Carl Edwards, Jeff Green, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Jason Leffler, Jeremy Mayfield, Ryan Newman, Scott Riggs and Scott Wimmer; Busch drivers Brandon Miller and Denny Hamlin; and Craftsman Truck driver Jack Sprague all tested Tuesday at NASCAR¿s fastest track.
As expected, four-time Atlanta pole winner Ryan Newman was fastest again on Tuesday, topping the unofficial speed chart with a lap of 29.57 seconds (187.487 mph).
"The car feels good, the same as yesterday," Newman said. "Atlanta is a good track to test many different things, so we¿re working on car balance, the new tires, and the aero package."
And that¿s the mantra that was repeated by so many teams Tuesday. With the new impound rule forcing teams to run the same setup during the race that they qualified with, most teams are throwing their qualifying notes out the window and spending all of their test time on consistency.
"Atlanta is different now than what we¿ve seen (because of the impound rule)," Labonte said. "We are just working on a good balance to be good the whole race instead of just parts of it, and then be better at the end."
For Carl Edwards, who led 15 laps and finished third in the fall Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta ¿ his first Cup race at the fast track ¿ there isn¿t much room for improvement. Even so, Edwards and his crew were frantically looking for an edge during their seven hours on track.
"I think Atlanta is going to be much better to us this spring than it was last fall," Edwards said. "Even though we had a good run last fall, I¿m still hoping to improve on it with this new Cup car we have here today. I feel better with the experience I have been gaining, and I think Atlanta is a track where we can showcase our talent."
The 2003 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, Matt Kenseth, was also on hand for Tuesday¿s test, but he wasn¿t driving his NEXTEL Cup car. He was actually preparing his No. 17 Waste Management Ford for the Aaron¿s 312 on Saturday, March 19.
"Yeah, we¿ve got Carl (Edwards) here testing the Cup car, and he and I have been talking back and forth quite a bit," Kenseth said. "The new spoilers and tires make it nice to have extra laps in the cars."
Testing will continue for the remainder of the week as teams prepare for the upcoming March 18-20 Golden Corral 500 weekend. Drivers expected for Wednesday¿s test are NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Mike Wallace; Busch driver Shane Hmiel; and Craftsman Truck drivers Johnny Benson, Todd Bodine, Chad Chaffin, Shige Hattori, Robert Huffman, Bill Lester, Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague, Brandon Whitt.
Tickets are still available starting at $30 and weekend packages are just $65. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-877-9-AMS-TIX or by visiting www.AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com.