Friday, June 10, 2011

Hamlin Fastest During Pocono Happy Hour; Junior With Best Average Speeds

Denny Hamlin fastest during Happy Hour at Pocono
Denny Hamlin found himself in a familiar role at the top of the speed charts during Pocono's final practice session with a lap speed of 166.125 mph. The four-time Pocono winner should be coming into this race with a lot more confidence than we have seen all season as he still covets that elusive first win of 2011.

Brian Vickers had the second fastest lap with a speed of 166.067 mph, and was followed by Carl Edwards (166.030), Brad Keselowski (165.926) and Jimmie Johnson (165.700) was fifth fastest.

Rounding out the top-ten fastest in “Happy Hour” were Mark Martin (165.615), David Reutimann (165.554), Ryan Newman (165.529), Kurt Busch (165.456) and Jeff Burton (165.399). Kurt Busch spun out early in the first session and tore up his right rear and had to go to a backup which he only got 12 laps in with it.

Two drivers who really stood out were Dale Earnhardt Jr and Mark Martin who were both raving about theirs cars on radio while driving. Junior couldn't believe how he could keep catching Denny Hamlin throughout their runs while only being slower in and out of one turn. His comments were right on the money because he had the fastest average times of the day among drivers who ran at least 10 laps.

Mark Martin isn't one to boast about having a good car if it isn't and he told the crew that they have a really fast car, and his fifth best overall lap reflects those thoughts.

Top-5 Happy Hour Speeds:
#11-Hamlin 166.125
#83-Vickers 166.067
#99-Edwards 166.030
#2-Keselowski 165.926
#48-Johnson 165.700
slowest: #7-Wimmer 159.815 & #50-Bell 161.195
notes: #22-Busch spun in turn 2 and wacked the wall with the rear of the car early in practice, the team brought out the backup car. Busch was able to get a few laps in the backup.

Pocono Practice Speeds

Driver Quotes Following Friday's First Practice at Pocono

TONY STEWART ON HOW HIS FIRST PRACTICE WENT: “I think we’re okay. Not 100 percent sure but I think according to the times we’re okay so far. I’m not sure we can say we’re spectacular but we’re above average I think.”

TONY STEWART SHIFTING: “I don’t understand why anybody should have to shift on an oval in a stock car but here we are and here we are doing it again. It is what it is.”

DENNY HAMLIN ON THIS BEING A GREAT TIME TO RACE AT POCONO FOR HIM: “It certainly is — we feel like we’ve been in contention for a couple wins here these last three or four weeks. It comes at a good time. This is a new car and it seems to have some pretty good speed in it. It’s a good part of it. We’re racing here in the middle of the day — conditions are going to be hot and slick on Sunday. All those things factor into what usually caters to us. I think this is a good time and hopefully it’s a chance for us to get in victory lane for the first time this year.”

DENNY HAMLIN ON SHIFTING CHANGING HIS STRATEGY: “It does — it takes a little bit and it’s another element that gets changed. It will. I think that we’re really only shifting in one corner — it turn one. It’s tough for me to say. You’re still going to have the guys that typically run good here — looking at the practice speeds, it looked like the typical guys were pretty good. I don’t think it will change a whole lot, but I do think it’s going to be tough on the reliability of these race cars for 500 miles. Shifting takes its toll on engines for sure. Somebody will break one.”

CARL EDWARDS ON WHAT HE'S LEARNED FROM SHIFTING AT POCONO:“We have some different ratios for third gear. I tried shifting there in practice and I went the same speed shifting and not shifting. I think that will be something you can use maybe on restarts when the cars are bunched up. Right now with my limited race trim practice I don’t see myself shifting very much. There are a lot of cycles on the engines here and a lot of up and down on the RPM. Three times per lap and then if you add another shift in there it makes a lot of opportunity for mistakes. To me, I am going to do the best I can to not shift and have the car set up for that.”

CARL EDWARDS ON SHIFTING CHANGING FUEL MILEAGE FOR THE WORSE: “Yeah, I think you use more fuel shifting and getting into third gear and then lifting and standing on it again going into fourth you burn more fuel shifting. If it becomes a fuel mileage race there won’t be guys shifting that last run. You just never know. There have been a couple of fuel mileage races here that I have been a part of and it is a tough place to save fuel at. There are a lot of bumps and the car moves around a lot. It is really hard to run really smooth laps.”

Gordon has three Pocono wins shifting
JEFF GORDON ON SHIFTING AGAIN AT POCONO: “I’m glad it’s back. To me, I wasn’t a fan of when they (NASCAR) took it away. I feel like I have an opportunity to grab that third gear to get a little bit better launch up off the corner. I think it challenges you in a way as a driver and the team, to work on the car to be able to do that. And so I think that just kind of adds another set of skills in there that I think are important, especially here at Pocono, as well as more opportunity to pass. I think it gives you more opportunity there. And I think that’s important because we’ve seen how track position is so important and getting your car to be able to turn down underneath somebody and then grab that gear to be able to try to make a pass I think is important.

“Some guys were shifting the last couple of time we were here with the old transmission. I don’t know how they were doing it. I wasn’t one of them and we were still fast. But to me, it makes sense to have the right third gear in there to be able to shift with that really works for you all the way around this place.”

JEFF GORDON ON HIS POSSIBLE ADVANTAGE OVER OTHERS WHO HAVEN'T SHIFTED: “It’s not difficult. No, what they were doing the last time we were here was difficult. And the guys that were doing it, I still shake my head at it because it was a huge jump from fourth to third and it got your attention. I tried it and I said no thank you. There is no way I’m doing this for 500 miles. But some guys did. And I think that now that we have the proper gearing it should be fairly straight-forward and simple. So I don’t think there is any advantage.”

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