Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pocono Test Session Notes: Allmendinger In Good Shape to Get First Career Win This Week

Allmendinger is 50-to-1 at LVH SuperBook to win Pocono 400 (Getty)  
By Micah Roberts

The final test session on Pocono Raceway’s new pavement saw the top speeds of the three sessions ran with Kasey Kahne topping the charts at 179.480 mph. Most of the top speeds obtained by the drivers came because they ran a lot of laps in qualifying trim.

Jamie McMurray was second fastest (179.401), followed by Mark Martin (179.390), Jeff Gordon (179/272) and Paul Menard (179.005).

The most impressive of the three sessions has been A.J. Allmendinger who finished with the seventh best speed in the afternoon, but was blazing fast in the first two sessions. He has probably the best chance he's ever had coming into a race to finally capture his first career Cup win.

Martin has also been very fast in every session and looks to be in good shape to possibly get his first career win at Pocono. Martin has started 50 races at Pocono over his long career with 19 top-five finishes that includes being runner-up six times, a bridesmaid mark that has him tied with Bobby Allison for most runner-ups at a track without a win.

The two Earnhardt-Ganassi cars look vastly improved from what we’ve seen out of them for the first 13 races this season and it wouldn‘t be surprising to see them run well Sunday based on the testing.

The Richard Childress stable also was very strong and we could see all three of their cars contending for a win. I like to lump The Brickyard and Pocono together as being the most similar and Menard is the defending Brickyard 400 winner. Couple his run last year at Indy with his great testing and there is plenty reason to believe that Menard could make some noise on Sunday.

The surprisingly slow drivers of the sessions were Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. Johnson finished the day with 19th fastest lap in the early session and 21st in the afternoon. Edwards was 34th early and 30th in the afternoon. Johnson should be alright, but Edwards might be in trouble.

"This is only the second day of testing," Edwards said Thursday. "Bob (Osborne) and I are over there almost coming to blows over there. I’m saying, ‘We’ve got to go faster.’ And he’s like, ‘We’ve got a test plan. We’ve got to stick to our plan.’ I’m like, ‘No, we’ve got to go faster.’ So he has a way of working through everything and by the end of tomorrow if we’re not good, then maybe it’s time to make some big changes to the car.

"But right now we’re just going through the plan and I’m trying my hardest when I get out of the car to walk by and kind of put the blinders on and not look at the sheet because I know we’re testing and not going for all-out speed, but Mark Martin is fast. I followed him a little bit and he’s very spectacular in that car.”

This is only testing and it's quite possible that several teams used it in the same manner Osborne did with Edwards' car, but we'll definitely find out more on Friday when the first official practice begins at 12:30 pm (ET) where the only game plan is to be fast. Chances are, Allmendinger and Martin will again be fast.

Top-5 Thursday Test Speeds (Afternoon)
1) Kasey Kahne 179.490
2) Jamie McMurray 179.401
3) Mark Martin 179.390
4) Jeff Gordon 179.272
5) Paul Menard 179.005

Pocono Test Speeds - Day 2 (Afternoon Session)

Allmendinger Blazing Fast in Thursday's Early Test Session 

By Micah Roberts

A.J. Allmendinger continued his fast pace on the new surface at Pocono with the fastest speed (177.190 mph) on Thursday in the second of three test sessions. In the first session on Wednesday, Allmendinger was second fastest showing that the Penske horsepower and success at Pocono is as good as it’s ever been making him a great candidate to break through for his first career win Sunday in the Pocono 400.

Last season it was Kurt Busch finishing runner-up and third for Penske Racing, in addition to a 2007 win, and it was Brad Keselowski winning in the fall event. Allmendinger’s best finish at Pocono was 10th in 2010 and it would be very surprising if he if he didn’t better that mark because of past Penske success on the track and the fast speeds in testing.

Juan Pablo Montoya was second fastest (176.602) followed by Mark Martin (176.595), Clint Bowyer (176.550) and Mr. Pocono, Denny Hamlin (176.218).

The Earnhardt-Ganassi team have to be thrilled to finally be showing some speed somewhere and should be a good sign for Montoya this week. This is a track where Montoya’s road skills give him an advantage entering and exiting the ‘Tricky Triangle’ turns, but obviously some power is needed to get down the massive straightaway and it looks like Montoya's got it. Montoya’s best finish at Pocono was runner-up in 2009.

42 drivers tested with Allmendinger running the most laps (62) followed by Kevin harvick (55). Only three drivers ran 10 consecutive laps or more.

The final test session is scheduled for today at 10:00 am (ET)

Top-5 Thursday Test Speeds (Early)
1) AJ Allmendinger 177.190 mph
2) Juan Pablo Montoya 176.602
3) Mark Martin 176.595
4) Clint Bowyer 176.550
5) Denny Hamlin 176.218

Driver Reactions Thursday on Twitter
Jeff Gordon: "Finishing up lunch break @poconoraceway testing. Car feels good just working thru some options for Sunday. Q runs coming up. #nascar"

Richard Childress: "Cars fast at Pocono , need a win ! 29 close in Dover , we will win !!"

Mark Martin: "We are! Car is fast again, just experimenting with things."

Martin Fastest in Wednesday Pocono Test Session, Allmendinger Impresses

By Micah Roberts

Allemdinger was fast in single lap and average speeds in Wednesday test
36 drivers tested out the new surface at Pocono Raceway Wednesday in the first of three sessions before Friday’s official practice with Mark Martin laying down the fastest lap (175.380 mph). Just as expected, the new surface produced much higher speeds than last season where the fastest lap during practice came from Ryan Newman at 170.026 mph.

Second fastest with a lap of 175.029 mph was AJ Allmendinger, followed by Jimmie Johnson (174.808 mph), Kevin Harvick (174.686) and Kasey Kahne (174.578).

Paul Menard ran the most laps of the session (61) and only six drivers ran more than 10 consecutive laps led by Newman.

A brief rain shower shortened the originally-scheduled four-hour session by 35 minutes.

There will two more sessions scheduled for Thursday at 6:00 am and 10 am (ET).

Top-5 Wednesday Test Speeds:
1) Mark Martin 175.380 mph
2) AJ Allmendinger 175.029
3) Jimmie Johnson 174.808
4) Kevin Harvick 174.686
5) Kasey Kahne 174.578

Pocono Test Speeds - Day 1

Reactions Following Pocono Test on New Surface:

John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director: “We’re in for a really good race come Sunday, Goodyear’s done an excellent job at matching the tire to the new surface. Basically all the way up and down through the garage we’ve heard zero complaints which is a good feeling. It will only continue to get better throughout the weekend, because more of the racing surface gets rubbered in, grooves get wider and offer the ability to the competitors to turn into some multiple lane racing, especially through corners where it counts come Sunday. So we’re pleased.”

Jeff Gordon: "They did a great job; (the) track was really nice and smooth (with) good grip. We have had some repaves where it is a handful and pretty slick. That was not the case at all today.”

Jeff Burton: “You never know what to expect when a race track gets paved, This pavement is unbelievably just nice, smooth. The quality of racing is going to be improved a great deal. [But] it’s still Pocono. It still has the same characteristics and the personality of Pocono, but just has more grip”

Driver Reactions Wednesday on Twitter:
Jimmie Johnson offers viewers a ride along for a few laps today - cool video

Jeff Burton @RCR31JeffBurton: "Really nice job done on the Pocono pavement. Track still has the personality but with more grip."

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