LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Las Vegas Motor Speedway was buzzing with the sound of horsepower on Thursday as 21 drivers spent 10 hours testing NASCAR’s new ground-breaking aero package for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Drivers logged dozens of laps – both individually and drafting in packs – throughout the daylong session.
Thursday's test gave drivers a chance to feel how the cars handled with the new body styles, which are designed to foster closer racing, as well as for teams to gather valuable data and work out any kinks heading into the new racing campaign.
These tests are considered one of the most critical sessions in NASCAR history.
“The new race package is a NASCAR game changer,” LVMS President Chris Powell said. “The maneuvers we saw today blew everyone away. Drivers were racing, at times, four-wide into the turns. It was racing like we’ve never seen on a mile-and-a-half and truly was awe-inspiring.”
Clint Bowyer, a two-time Monster Energy Cup Series race winner last year, was one of a handful of drivers who met with the media during the lunch break and was clear about who he feels the 2019 changes will benefit most.
“There’s really only one voice that matters, it’s the fans,” said Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “That’s the voice we’re all working for, and that’s no different than it’s ever been. It doesn’t matter what sport it is; it’s about the fans showing up and enjoying what they see."
Las Vegas' Kyle Busch had a prediction about how the new package will affect racing at LVMS and similar 1.5-mile tracks.
“I think the competition is going to be closer together than what we’ve seen in years past, and I don’t know if you’ll see a leader be able to stretch it out five, six or seven seconds,” said Busch, the 2015 Monter Energy Cup Series champion.
Busch’s older brother, Kurt, was also happy to be back in his hometown and excited to get some time with his new team, Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 Chevrolet.
“We’ve got a big hybrid group from Ganassi Racing here trying to collect data and work on this new package,” said Kurt Busch, who won his Cup title in 2004. “We’re just getting up to speed, as far as our communication and the little checklist items."
Drivers hit speeds in the 178 mph range, with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson topping the Day 1-speed chart at 178.885 mph.
Kurt Busch owns the LVMS track record of 196.328 mph set in 2016.
The 14 drivers at this week’s test ran three 25-lap group sessions to see how the cars handled in packs around the 23-year-old banked oval.
They practiced making passes, drafting and even ran four-wide heading into Turn 1 at one point.
The two-day test, which is free to the public, continues Friday at 8 a.m.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is scheduled to host a NASCAR tripleheader on March 1-3.
More information about those upcoming races can be found here.