Fans Enjoy Up-Close Access During Open NASCAR Team Test at AMS
NASCAR fans had a rare opportunity to watch an open team test at Atlanta Motor Speedway today, as Sprint Cup Series drivers turned laps while evaluating NASCAR's new, low-downforce aero package that will be utilized full time in 2016.
Joey Logano, winner of three straight races, Dawsonville native Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, David Ragan, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola all participated in the test, which was open to one driver and car from each Sprint Cup Series team.
The new rules package, which will be run for the first time in 2016 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, includes a 3.5-inch rear spoiler, a .25-inch front splitter leading edge and a 33-inch-wide radiator pan. It is designed for drivers to play a larger role in handling and maneuvering and allow for easier conditions to pass on the race track.
Early on in the morning session, Aric Almirola clocked a lap time of 30.544 seconds, hitting 185.198 miles per hour, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. touched just under 185 miles per hour and a lap time of 30.698. Later in the afternoon, Kurt Busch hit a speed of 176.518 miles per hour, and Joey Logano broke 177 miles per hour with a lap time of 31.004 in the warmer afternoon air.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports and Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 25 for Hendrick Motorsports were made available to the media during a half-hour lunch break and offered their views on the new rules package and their performances so far this season.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the new, low-downforce aero package:
"We're definitely a little bit looser, which I think we kind of expected. It's still a little bit tight for us through the center of the corner, but overall, just looking for some rear grip. Atlanta is always loose and always wears the tires out a lot, but it seems a little bit looser with this package. But that's what we've been asking for, so you can't complain about it. I just like the way it drives. The car is not locked down to the race track as much as our cars are right now."
Aric Almirola on the difference between the current rules package and the new low-downforce aero package:
"I think we have a really good baseline for what a good package is here. We unloaded here with some good speed, but honestly, (we're) just trying to really focus on what we need for a balance for the 2016 package. I think as they pull the downforce away, it allows me to drive my race car a little bit more. As we've transitioned to this lower downforce, it's been an improvement for our sport, but it's been an improvement for me as well, because I feel like I can make a difference now."
Chase Elliottt on being featured in a forthcoming Atlanta Motor Speedway TV commercial:
"I appreciate everyone here at AMS giving me the opportunity to do that. I think it's pretty cool, and I was happy that Dad agreed to do it too. I think that's special. This is our home track on the circuit. It definitely is mine, and I know it has been for my Dad for many years. Hopefully we can put on a good show for them here in February."
On his upcoming Atlanta debut in the Sprint Cup Series at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on Feb. 28, 2016:
"I'm definitely excited. And I don't really think it's all quite set in just yet. I'm really looking forward to next season, and the more days we spend doing tests like this, the more it starts to set in for me that the next time we come to this track will be next year in the No. 24 car, and we'll be racing Sprint Cup full time. All those things are things that I've dreamed to do for a long time."
On the new package and its expected impact on the competition next season:
"From a package standpoint and trying to put on a good show for the fans, I think that this is a great step and this is the direction we need to go in. I do know from watching the Kentucky race, I feel like that was a great show. I hope that that turns into great races throughout the entire season next year at these race tracks. A place like Atlanta and a lot of the mile-and-a-halves have such potential to put on a really, really good show, and I think that can happen."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series open team test at Atlanta Motor Speedway is scheduled to conclude at 5 p.m. tonight.
Teams now head to Martinsville for the first of three races in the Eliminator Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Eight drivers, including Joey Logano and Kurt Busch remain in the hunt for the 2016 Sprint Cup championship.
NASCAR racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway Feb. 26-28, 2016, featuring an XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 27 and the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 28. For more information or to purchase tickets today, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.