KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Throw out the notes and start from scratch.
Jeff Gordon was succinct in his assessment of recently repaved Kansas Speedway, after a rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session that also included a handful of 2013 cars.
“It’s like going to a brand new race track somewhere else,” Gordon said. “This track went from pretty abrasive and wearing the tires out to now it’s smooth and super fast, and the times don’t fall off… It’s basically like going to a whole new race track.”
Repaves aren’t particularly popular with drivers, who prefer a grittier surface that places a premium on driving skills and tire management, but Gordon conceded that resurfacing is an inevitable part of racing.
“It’s just one of those necessary evils of our sport,” Gordon said. “I understand that tracks need to be repaved eventually, that pavement doesn’t last forever. But then it puts (tire maker) Goodyear into a box.
“They have to bring a very durable tire, with the surface temperatures. So, all in all, we’re having fun out there, going really fast, having a lot of grip and testing and trying a lot of new things. That part of it is very interesting and fun. But once we get into the race weekend, it’ll be a whole different ballgame.”
In fact, Goodyear provided the same tire codes for Kansas that were raced at Michigan in August, after a repave of that speedway. In the June race at MIS, there were tire issues as speeds topped 200 mph — requiring an 11th-hour change in the left-side tires — but the August race was run without problem.
Greg Biffle posted the fastest lap Wednesday at 184.900 mph. Gordon, who was 27th quickest at 181.513 mph, promised that speeds would pick up throughout the weekend.
“It will get faster,” Gordon said. “Tomorrow (Thursday) is when I expect the pace to pick up — and in qualifying.”
After rain abated just before 2 p.m., and after another 90 minutes to dry the track, drivers got two hours of testing time, not enough to work in a second groove.
“Right now we’re all running the same groove — I’d say there’s a groove and a foot,” Gordon chuckled. “Turn 3 seems to have some flexibility there on your entry, so I think Turn 3 will get wider. Three and four might possibly get wider. It seems like you can get outside the groove there, but right now (in) 1 and 2, you definitely ride around the bottom…
“That’s what’s nice about coming here on a Wednesday. By Sunday, it’ll just get wider and wider and better and better.”
Full-time Cup drivers tested side-by-side with four 2013 models, driven by Josh Wise (Chevrolet), Parker Kligerman (Ford), Brian Vickers (Toyota) and Trevor Bayne (Ford).
In a recent test at Texas, the new-generation cars performed admirably in single-car runs but had difficulty in traffic. On Thursday, and in future tests, NASCAR and the teams will work to refine the aerodynamic package.
“The direction here is to get cars to race well,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “There’s not a parameter set around drag numbers or downforce numbers or anything like that.
“The end result will be what it takes to put on a good race.”