The first test for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup series took to the track Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway , site of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup QuikTrip 500 (FOX 1 p.m. ET). Jeff Gordon had the fastest lap in the second test session, with a lap of 188.424 miles per hour. Jamie McMurray put down the day’s fastest speed, set in the day’s first session, with a lap of 191.278 miles per hour.
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, was first out of the garage Thursday morning. Larson is looking his first Sprint Cup Series win after being named last year’s Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year.
“We were all pretty anxious to get out there,” Larson said. “This is really what I feel like the start of our season is, because this is the majority of size race track we run on.”
Thursday’s test was the first opportunity teams had to test NASCAR’s new rules package. The new package will be in effect at most of the tracks NASCAR races on and is designed to provide closer racing.
“I really didn’t notice anything,” Larson said. “I thought it came up to speed pretty well. Maybe it doesn’t carry to the end of the straightaway as hard as what it did before but we have less downforce too but it still feels fast. I really didn’t notice much difference between this year vs. last year.”
There were several aerodynamic change for 2015. Among those is the ability for the driver to control the handling with a new in-car track bar adjuster:
“So far when I played with it,” Larson said. “I just thought it affected my exit at the corner. I just gotta learn that kind of stuff and how far you can go with it. I think that’ll be a really neat tool that we get to use as drivers.”
Carl Edwards is with a new team this season moving over from the Fords at Roush-Fenway Racing to the Toyota’s at Joe Gibbs. Other than a test at Charlotte late last year, Thursday marked the first time Edwards had an opportunity to work with his new crew chief Darien Grubb outside of a race weekend. Atlanta is a special place for Edwards. It’s where he scored his first Sprint Cup win in 2005.
“It’s a fast track with a lot of character,” Edwards said. There’s bumps and seams and spots with no grip and spots with a ton of grip. It’s a real fun race track. If you don’t have the fastest car in one area, you can make it up somewhere else, and you just have to drive the whole way.”
“To me, we could race here every week and I’d be happy,” he added.
Much of the attention Thursday was on driver David Ragan. Ragan is subbing in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for driver Kyle Busch. Busch was injured in the NASCAR XFINITY series race last Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. He broke his right leg and left foot and is out of the car for an extend period of time. Thursday was the first time Ragan had the chance to drive the Toyota he will race for at least the next several weeks.
“The day was great, really uneventful,” Ragan, a Unadilla, Georgia native said.” And just learning the Joe Gibbs racing bunch and their process, how they conduct business on a practice day, so we were fortunate to have a few hours today where we can hot lap our M&M’s Camry and just enjoyed getting to the race track. It had been a busy week and working through a lot of the details.”
“Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of my favorite tracks for a lot of reasons,” he added. “The race track’s in great shape. It’s got a lot of speed. The tires fall off throughout the run, so a lot of characteristics that makes it fun to drive. The weather worked out just perfect, and it was a lot of fun.”
Teams are scheduled one practice Friday. Qualifying will take place at Atlanta Friday evening at 5:45 p.m. ET.