FORT WORTH, Texas – Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola kicked off a two-day Goodyear Tire test session Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway.
The test session was highlighted by the on-track debut of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which will be the manufacturer’s new entry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series beginning this season.
Elliott drew the honor of turning the first laps in the Camaro ZL1, which will make its competition debut in February during Speedweeks at Daytona Int’l Speedway. The Camaro ZL1 replaces the Chevrolet SS as the Chevrolet entry in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“Yeah, as far as the feel goes, it is so hard to tell,” said Elliott, when asked about the difference between the SS and the Camaro after the morning test session. “I have a hard time feeling much of anything I’m going so fast. I’m guessing anyways, but no, I think until we get into situations where we are racing and we get some more general analysis of hey, the Chevrolets are better or the Chevys are qualifying better or the Chevys are racing better, I think until we get those generalizations of exactly how we stack up, it’s going to be hard to just make a ‘guesstimation’ of how the thing drives and say it’s better or worse. It’s hard for me to tell out there by myself.
“But, the car looks great. I don’t know from a manufacturer standpoint, from the public eyes standpoint, I don’t know how you could not identify the Camaro with the Camaro on the street. It looks the same. I think that is something to be very proud of from Chevrolet. The work they did on that and the thought process behind it. It is the same car, it looks just like it. I think job well done from that standpoint.”
The driver contingent represented each manufacturer in the Monster Energy Cup Series – Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford. They tested tire compounds on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval that was repaved and re-profiled last year. The re-profiling reduced the banking in turns one and two from the original 24 degrees to 20 while turns three and four remained the same.
Temperatures were in the low 40s with fog in the morning before warming into the high 50s with sunshine in the early afternoon. The drivers were scheduled to test from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday with the same schedule expected for Wednesday.
“I haven’t been a part of a tire test in a long time so it’s neat to feel all the different compounds and builds that they bring out here,” Blaney said. “Whether they start off a run different or whether they fall off more, it’s really neat to see and it’s really good to know they’re working really hard to make the best tire for each race track. We will be able to tell, but that will just keep getting better and better as the track gets hotter.”
“It’s a Goodyear tire test so trying to figure out what tire we need to bring back here in the spring (for the O’Reilly 500) and to be able to put on the best show possible,” Truex added. “It really felt like both races here last year with the repave were pretty good and really competitive so hopefully we will be able to find a tire that will get that second groove coming in a little bit earlier especially coming in on turns one and two and help the racing a little bit, but so far so good, so far it’s been going good.”
For Almirola, the test served as his first chance to turn laps in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford after taking over the ride from Danica Patrick during the off-season.
“That’s something about life, the only constant is change so for me I haven’t really put much thought about getting in the 10 car and it being in somebody’s else’s car,” said Almirola about taking over the No. 10 Ford. “When I get in the car, the only thing I see is the windshield and 39 other drivers that I’ve beaten or want to beat. So for me, I’ve driven the sport’s most iconic car for the last six years so if you want to talk about it from that aspect, there’s been more pressure driving that (Richard) Petty blue 43 car than I think I’ll ever have driving a black-and-white 10 car, so I haven’t really put that much thought into it.”