NASCAR: Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski glad for test time in Vegas

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With all private team testing now banned in NASCAR, any chance to get extra track time means that much more to teams and drivers.

For Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, and A.J. Allmendinger, being able to turn laps in a Goodyear tire test today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway could prove important for them when the series hits Sin City in early March.

And especially so for Kenseth, who along with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates will be driving an all-new Toyota Camry this season.

“I think any track time you get is really important with the new testing rules, banning all off-season testing, which I think we all like, but you’ve really got to take advantage of the tests when you get them and try to gather as much information as you can – hopefully useful information that you can use down the road,” Kenseth said today at LVMS according to a track release.

“For us, we didn’t run particularly well last year and we’ve got a new nose on the Camry this year and new rules changes and aero package and all that stuff, so we’re just trying to get it sorted out and try to find a baseline and hopefully find something that drives good so we’ve got something decent when we come back here.”

Keselowski, who will enter Vegas as its defending race champion after outlasting Dale Earnhardt Jr. last year, also seeks to make the most out of every moment in tests like this.

But with new members on his No. 2 Team Penske crew, he noted that it was an opportunity to build a rapport and get them some experience.

“More so than the changes to the car, the testing ban makes every test you do have that much more critical because you have so much less,” he said. “In that light, a lot of what testing is isn’t always developing the car, but you’re developing your people, developing your techniques.

“We added two or three more people to our team so we’re trying to develop them and get them up to speed, so it’s really a great time for us as a team to have a test.”

As for Goodyear, they were able to get more impressions today on how their tires will fare with the new 2015 aero package on an intermediate oval.

The company held a two-day tire test back in December at another intermediate, Charlotte Motor Speedway, with drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, and Sam Hornish Jr.

Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, believes that Goodyear “got what they needed” in today’s session. But he’s not sure how all of the changes stand to impact him and the No. 2 team.

“It’s still hard to tell,” he said. “It’ll take some different style tracks and different style tires, because that’s one of the big factors for us in how our car handles. There are certain tracks and tire combinations that favor us and that we run really well with and there are others where you could say we’re not as strong.

“It’s hard to say, just based off this one test, if we feel like we’re where we need to be.”

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?