Cars Fast With Restrictors, Passing May Be At A Premium
The American Speed Association completed their second test session at the “new” superspeedways on Thursday afternoon with a rousing success, all things considered. After the all-day test session at Kentucky resulted in fast times and no real incidents, the Atlanta Motor Speedway test did the same thing, despite the cars running with restrictor “donuts” to help slow the cars down.
ASA point leader Travis Kittleson turned in the fastest lap in the final session of the day, but this day was not about times, but more about learning what the cars will be like come race day. And what the drivers thought seemed to be different depending on who you were talking to.
“I don’t think it will be like a Talladega or Daytona deal,” said Kittleson. “I think we will put on a great show. There are so many grooves here. You can pass a guy easier here, as compared to a short track where, if you are faster, you’ve still really got to work to pass. Here, there are so many grooves to choose from.”
Kittleson was followed in times and speed most of the day by veteran Bryan Reffner, who has plenty of laps on the speedways in NASCAR Busch and Craftsman Truck Series competition. Reffner, who was also fast at Kentucky, had some new help on Thursday that made him a little bit quicker.
“Carl Hartman is the new crew chief and so far, every time we’ve tested or practiced together, we are getting better and better,” said Reffner. “I’m really happy with the car overall. But I’m really glad we had another day with no incidents. That is good for the series because when a series comes to these new tracks, they look for us to fail. We’ve made two tests now and not failed at anything.
“I think Kentucky will be a great race. There is a whole lot of race track being used there. Here, we are running wide open and you are never sure what kind of race that can make for. I didn’t get a chance to run with too many cars out there today. I would like to run with six or seven cars and see how the car reacts.
Just as fast as Kittleson and Reffner talked of how good the racing could be, two others were pretty concerned with what might happen come October 29th.
A total of 27 cars took laps at Atlanta on Thursday.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I don’t really have control of what is going on with the race car,” said defending Rookie of the Year Reed Sorenson. “You are floored out there and all you can do is really try some different lines. I guess it is good practice for Daytona and Talladega for the future. But it is not a good feeling to not be in control.”
Sorenson and Reffner ran a bunch of laps nose-to-tail in the final practice session of the day and Sorenson wasn’t too impressed.
“You can suck up on the guys in front of you good but you would just give them a big push. Then you would fall behind, catch up and push them again. Basically I learned you can’t pass. It is almost impossible to pass unless you have a big group of cars to pass one car.
“I talked to other people and they said they saw the same thing. You are going to have to get some help to pass, but it may only be advantageous if you are the front guy,
because after you get that push from behind you can make the pass and get back down in line and the guy behind you will be left out there.”
Three-time champion Butch Miller didn’t take a single lap on Thursday, but learned a lot by just standing in the corners and watching his teammate, rookie Kyle Krisiloff, and the rest of the drivers negotiate the 1.54-mile track.
Sorenson (#29) said he could catch Reffner (#80), but he couldn't pass him.
“Sometimes, there is a lot more to be learned from not being behind the wheel,” said Miller. “That was the case today. You are always looking for different ways to make the car go faster. Sometimes it is better to see things from the outside.
“I hope I’m wrong, but what I saw today reminded me of the IROC race at Texas. I see they can close up but it looks like it is going to be hard to pass.”
Miller sat out because his driver’s suit was stuck in the Timber Wolf hauler, which was broken down with a couple of flat tires on the way down to the track.
Tim Sauter, another diver who has plenty of laps around the Atlanta track, said it is hard to figure out what the race will be like after just a couple of test sessions, but knows it will be fast.
“It is really hard to know completely what it is going to be like because we never saw too many people running together out there today. That will make a big difference come race day. Everyone out there just wanted to work on getting their car through the air. That is what we did. That will be important come race time, but it will also be different with other cars around you.”
Other Notes Of Interest From The Test In Kentucky
- A total of 27 teams took laps on Thursday, more than many thought would show up.
- Several teams found themselves going backwards at the end of the day, including the likes of Todd Kluever and Sorenson. “I don’t’ know, we just lost something in the car,” said Kluever. “We were pretty fast and I thought we were going to gain on it all day, but it just died off at the end of the day. I don’t know why or what is happening, but we are going to have to figure it out.”
- Kevin Cywinski showed up to Atlanta with a new look Dodge-bodied car. However, his teammate Joey Miller ran with the usual Monte Carlo body and was consistently one of the fastest cars on the track all day long.
- Kittleson sat out the third practice session trying to work on some things, one of which was to keep his car from bottoming out bad in the corners. “I was actually getting worried a couple of times. It felt like the seat was going to get ripped out,” joked Kittleson. “I feel like if we can stop the car from bottoming out and we get the nose down on the track, we are going to have the baddest race car out there.”
Kluever found himself going the wrong way on the speed charts.
- Rookie Jimmy Henderson was so pleased with the car that the team had the hauler loaded up and pulled out well before the final practice session was over.
Robbie Pyle (#63) and Stephen Leicht (#4)
- WalTom Racing teammates Robbie Pyle and Stephen Leicht finally found their speed at the end of the day after struggling most of the afternoon. “We really needed more speed and finally found some things at the end of the day,” said Leicht.
- The only real “incident” of the day came when Jeff Harrison’s car lost an oil line and oiled down the entire 1.54-mile track, causing a red flag for nearly 35 minutes while track crews got the track back to safe conditions.