Sunday, September 12, 2004
Drivers save tests for last 10 races
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Some teams saved their test sessions for the final 10 races, while others used most of their tests to assure that they'll make the championship chase. Tests are valuable because teams typically have only two hours of practice before qualifying and 90 minutes of practice the day before the race. Test sessions usually last eight hours, giving teams time to try different setups.
NASCAR limits teams to five two-day tests and four one-day tests at tracks that host Cup races. Teams with a rookie driver are allowed seven two-day tests and five one-day tests. Teams can have an unlimited number of tests at tracks that don't host Cup races such as Kentucky Speedway.
"We took all of our tests at the beginning of the year so we'd have some really good race cars built," Elliott Sadler said. "This is a new points deal. We don't know what's an advantage or what's not an advantage."
Defending series champion Matt Kenseth has saved all but one test for the final 10 races. He's scheduled to test at Martinsville, Dover, Atlanta, Homestead, Phoenix and a track to be determined. He could keep his tests because he's remained in the top 10 in points all season. Sadler, Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart each have been in the top 10 all year.
"At the beginning of the year if you could maintain in the top 10 you're going to be within 45 points of the lead with 10 to go," Kenseth said of the points standings after they're reset. "We're trying to save them for some of the tracks we're maybe weaker at and ... be at the top of our game going into the end of the year."
Jimmie Johnson has four test sessions left. Crew chief Chad Knaus says they plan to test at Martinsville, Talladega, Phoenix and Homestead. The team tested recently for next week's race at New Hampshire. Jeff Gordon's team also has four test sessions left and is planning to test at Martinsville, Dover, Phoenix and Homestead. Gordon also tested at New Hampshire.
Earnhardt is scheduled to test at Kansas City, Homestead, Dover and Martinsville. Tony Stewart has three tests and is expected to test at Darlington and Homestead with another track to be decided.
Among those with fewer test sessions are Sadler, who has two sessions left. The team has not decided where it will go. Rookie Kasey Kahne, who was trying to race his way into the title chase Saturday, has only one test left because his team tested often early to get a good start.
Long road home
Mark Martin plans to return home to Daytona Beach, Fla., after the race but is not sure how long he'll stay, depending on Hurricane Ivan's path.
Martin took his family to California last weekend to avoid Hurricane Frances and did not return home, going to Arkansas before heading to Charlotte. He arrived in Richmond on Thursday. Martin has flown the family's plane since his new pilot was unavailable this week.
"It's been kind of a difficult week because of the two hurricanes and all the things like that, but we have been together," Martin said. "On top of everything else and not going home, I'm tired. I'm tired of all this."
NASCAR officials were expected to tear down as many as 20 cars in a postrace inspection after tonight's race. Typically, series officials examine about five cars after a race.
"We're going to try to remove any doubt from everybody's mind," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president for corporate communication, of the increased inspection process.
The Boston Herald reports that President Bush will attend next weekend's Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway and give the command to start engines.
Bush attended the season-opening Daytona 500 and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld attended Saturday night's race.
NASCAR's head officials met with its officiating crew this weekend to go over any what-if scenarios for tonight. ... The energy-absorbing SAFER barriers are being installed at Atlanta Motor Speedway. ... NASCAR Chairman Brian France will appear on Speed Channel's "Wind Tunnel" at 10 p.m. Tuesday. Viewers can e-mail questions to email@example.com. ... Tickets for the 2005 Las Vegas race go on sale Monday. Tickets can be purchased at www.lvms.com or by calling (800)644-4444. ... Akins Motorsports announced that it will field a two-car Busch team next year for at least 20 races with ARCA driver Brent Sherman running one car and Kasey Kahne and Tyler Walker combining to run the other.