Las Vegas test session gets off to windy, chilly start
Sprint Cup teams embarked on the first day of an important two-day test session Monday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but 40-mph-plus wind gusts and rain showers put a damper on the festivities.
Updated: January 29, 2008, 10:38 AM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
LAS VEGAS -- Jacques Villeneuve looked as though he were preparing for the Iditarod wearing a hooded jacket underneath another jacket with the hood pulled tightly around his scruffy face. Crew members looked like they belonged in the stands at Lambeau Field with their toboggans and gloves.
Gordon on hair, family and racing a part-time scheduleLAS VEGAS -- Those who see Jeff Gordon's picture on the cover of "Best Life" magazine might have to look twice the way he's made up with long bangs instead of his typical brushed-back look. "I was wondering who it was, too," Gordon quipped following Monday's test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Gordon talked about many things in the magazine article, from the birth of his daughter last year to decisions he will have to make about his racing future in 2010 when his deal with DuPont ends. He even suggested, as he did last year at Martinsville, the possibility of running a part-time schedule as Mark Martin has done the past few years. "Ever since Mark Martin did his schedule last year, that's opened it wide open to what you can do in the future," the four-time Sprint Cup champion said. "I love racing. Right now I've got a championship-caliber team. I feel I'm capable of winning a championship. I'm not thinking about anything different. "But if that day comes, or when that day comes, I certainly would consider all options." Gordon said he'd like to run other types of cars, do more 24-hour races or maybe dirt late-model cars, as his career winds down. "This is a very grueling season, 38 weeks with all the commitments to sponsors," he said. "It's a tough time. Am I going to want to do that forever? Heck no."
-- David Newton
There weren't enough adidas products to keep Dale Earnhardt Jr. warm as he walked through the garage with his arms folded firmly around his chest. Welcome to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where winds gusting from 35 to more than 40 mph made the desert temperature feel like 35 to 40 as Sprint Cup teams began the first of an important two-day test at the 1.5-mile track."You're walking sideways around that end of the garage," said Jimmie Johnson, still a bit weary from his second-place finish on Sunday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.The winds were so severe that Johnson said he was going to let a few other drivers take the track before he tackled it. Naturally, he was first out.But the two-time defending Cup champion was only 15th fastest during the first session, which was interrupted by rain. Denny Hamlin, driving a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, had the fastest lap at 178.265 mph. JGR teammate Kyle Busch led the afternoon session in which the wind subsided a bit with a speed of 183.580 mph. Toyota had six of the top 16 speeds in the morning and four of the top six in the afternoon, a good sign for the foreign manufacturer after a strong practice session at Daytona.And while the wind was a factor, it didn't deter teams from learning what they need to know about the Car of Tomorrow that will be used on intermediate tracks for the first time this season."It kind of makes things a little cloudy," said Carl Edwards, who was 26th fastest during the first session and fourth fastest in the afternoon. "Some of the stuff you feel might be because of the win. I can't make a small change and say 100 percent that was the reason for the change."But it'll be fine."Earnhardt agreed."The wind does throw you a monkey wrench, but it might be here when we race," said NASCAR's most popular driver, who was eighth fastest in during the morning and afternoon sessions his No.88 car for Hendrick Motorsports.Hamlin was encouraged by what he saw out of his Camry for the first time on a track where handling is more essential than raw speed. He was impressed with the COT altogether, saying big strides have been made since last season."It seems when you go to these big tracks with these things, I'm definitely impressed with the way they drive," he said.Hamlin went so far as to say the JGR teams are going to be more competitive than they were a year ago in Chevrolets."We definitely didn't think going into this year we were going to have growing pains by switching manufacturers," he said. Busch agreed, reminding the engine package he ran on Monday came from Toyota Racing Development and not JGR."So I can only presume that we will come back here with more [power]," he said.The speeds in the COT were significantly slower during the morning than they were during last year's test here in the old car. Scott Riggs topped the first session then at 183.511 mph, about 5 mph faster than Hamlin was."Really, you have some of the same challenges with this car that you did in the previous car," said Hamlin, his primary concern passing. "Our speeds were getting a little too high with the old car. Speeds have slowed down. I'm pretty pleased with everything NASCAR has decided to do as far as safety and the performance side.
We make our own wind gusts of 185 mph. Yeah, the wind will affect them some, but it's nothing they can't figure out.
-- NASCAR's John Darby