Drivers test 2013 car, in awe of higher speeds
Denny Hamlin's test of the 2013 car was shortened due to a crash on Wednesday, but not before the Joe Gibbs Racing driver experienced speeds he predicts will lead to track records.
CONCORD, N.C. -- Denny Hamlin's test of the 2013 car was shortened because of a crash on Wednesday, but not before the Joe Gibbs Racing driver experienced speeds he predicts will lead to track records.
"In my mind, there'll be no less than six or seven track records broken [in 2013]," Hamlin said after he wrecked early in the morning session at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports put down a top lap of 193.771 mph during the morning practice in race trim. That was slightly faster than the track record of 193.708 mph Greg Biffle registered in qualifying at the October Chase race.
While Kahne and Hamlin attributed some of the speed to cool track conditions that create more grip, both agreed the new car with improved downforce and overall grip will be faster than the old one.
"I'd say so," Kahne said. "If we were in the old car this time of year, could I go as fast as I went this morning? I really don't think I could. I'm thinking there's three- to four-tenths there that we are running faster in this car."
Much of that is because the added grip and downforce allows the cars to go faster in the corners without having to create a sideways effect with rear yaw.
Joey Logano said the car allows him to take a more aggressive line in the corners like he does with the Nationwide Series car. And although teams experimented with less horsepower during one of Tuesday's practice sessions, most drivers preferred the added power.
Overall, Hamlin said the cars are able to pass better than they did a year ago, although he admitted that closing in on lead cars remains a struggle. Logano said drivers have to learn new techniques to pass.
"Everything is a step in the right direction," Hamlin said. "The only thing that scares me is the speed that we're running."
Hamlin's crash had nothing to do with speed. He said the upper control arm broke, causing him to lose control and drive straight into the wall. He added that the car was one of JGR's older, recycled ones and he wasn't sure how old some of the parts and pieces were.
Hamlin was limping after his left knee that underwent surgery a couple of years ago was hit by the steering column during the wreck. He said the column was resting where the incision from his surgery was and would have to be adjusted.
But overall he was pleased with the car.
"The cars drive better than they ever have," Hamlin said. "Obviously, with the speeds we're seeing now, we're going track records in race trim right now."
Sixteen drivers participated in the two-day test. The next test is Jan. 10-12 at Daytona International Speedway, followed by a late-January test again at Charlotte.
After that, those drivers will have a better idea of where speeds will be for the season.
"Speeds will be up," Logano said. "There definitely is the possibility for track records to be broken, but we'll have to wait and see."
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