NASCAR: Penske, Roush Fenway squads test at Texas Motor Speedway

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Two teams on the opposite ends of the Chase spectrum tested this afternoon on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

Team Penske’s duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano joined Roush Fenway Racing’s trio of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the session, which was open to the public.

Keselowski and Logano have locked themselves into the Contender Round of the Chase already with wins at Chicagoland (Keselowski) and New Hampshire (Logano).

But the fate of RFR’s two Chasers, Edwards and Biffle, remains in doubt. Going into this Sunday’s Challenger Round finale at Dover, Edwards sits eighth at just eight points over the cutoff while Biffle is 14th at six points behind.

Both of them need to be in the Top 12 after Dover to join the Penske pair in the Contender Round.

Today, Edwards acknowledged that Roush Fenway’s decision to test on the 1.5-mile Fort Worth oval was “kind of a risk” since he’s not yet locked in.

“…This race is obviously not for a while and we’ve got other things to focus on,” he said to TMS. “But we do feel like things that we find here at Texas could apply at Dover, Kansas, Charlotte, all the mile-and-a-half [tracks in the Chase].”

Biffle chimed in: “It is critical and that is why we are here testing. Trying to figure out our program for these mile-and-a-halves and a lot of times when you find speed at these places that transfers to shorter tracks as well. We are working hard to try and find some speed.”

Meanwhile, Logano got back to work just one day after taking home the lobster in New Hampshire.

“That’s how we got to do it,” said Logano, who defeated Jeff Gordon in green-white-checkered to win at Texas in April. “We got to keep fighting hard until the end of this Chase.

“This was planned before we went to Loudon. [It is] great we were able to get the win, but we flew down here last night – got here around midnight and got ready for the test today.”

Texas will host the second race in the Eliminator Round in November, but while Logano said that his team’s presence at TMS fit their style of always looking ahead, he’s not about to slack off at Dover’s “Monster Mile.”

“We still want to go up there and have a shot at winning it,” he said. “The fact that we’re in the next round doesn’t make us just say ‘We’re taking an off weekend this week and focusing on the next one.’

“We need to keep that momentum going. We want to go out there and win races. We want to keep this wave rolling as long as we can. So that means we just keep doing what we’ve been doing all year, focus on one track at a time, get prepared for it and execute the plan when we get there.”

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds