A new surface was on full display today at Pocono Raceway, where 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars were on track during a test session in preparation for Sunday’s Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR. Today’s test was the first full-field opportunity for the series at Pocono; seven drivers took part in a Goodyear tire test in April.
A distinct venue nestled in the Pocono Mountains – three different turns and three straightaways at varying distances around its 2.5 miles – received a new coat of asphalt for the first time since 1995 during a paving project that began last September and ended this spring.
“We’re in for a really good race come Sunday,” said John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director. “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.”
Additionally, for the first time in the track’s history, the race is scheduled for 400 miles, down from 500. That also will be the case for the second race at Pocono in August.
“They did a great job; (the) track was really nice and smooth (with) good grip,” said four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, a five-time winner at Pocono. “We have had some repaves where it is a handful and pretty slick. That was not the case at all today.”
“You never know what to expect when a race track gets paved,” said Jeff Burton. “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”
Mark Martin was the fastest in today’s session with a speed of 175.380 mph, which bettered the top practice speed from last August’s race at Pocono – 170.026 mph by Ryan Newman. In all, 33 drivers eclipsed Newman’s 2011 number. Paul Menard put down 61 laps, most among all drivers.
A brief rain shower shortened the originally-scheduled four-hour session by 35 minutes.
This weekend also marks the launch of the one-of-a-kind NASCAR hashtag product on Twitter throughout the race weekend in Pocono. Media and fans can log onto NASCAR.COM and visit www.Twitter.com/#NASCAR, where the brand new, complementary live event experience will provide users with a unique behind-the-scenes look at a race weekend. This new product, which will live on the Twitter platform, will showcase the most activity on Sunday for the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR.
Twitter.com/#NASCAR will give fans a viewing experience supplemented with strong interplay between Twitter and TNT, and will feature the “best-of-the-best” tweets from industry stakeholders including drivers, pit crew members, NASCAR executives and even fans.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing at Pocono concludes Thursday, June 7 with two sessions from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-3:30 p.m. Driver media availability begins with A.J. Allmendinger at 12:15 p.m. in the media center followed by Denny Hamlin at 12:30 p.m. and Carl Edwards at 12:45 p.m. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, closes out the interview opportunities at 3:30 p.m.
Coverage of Sunday’s Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR begins at noon eastern time on TNT. This is the first of six consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race broadcasts during the “NASCAR on TNT Summer Series.”