Dale Earnhardt Jr: Las Vegas testing is a good barometer for 2014

Thursday at Las Vegas was testing with a difference.

In the first place, it was the first test of the 2014 season with broad implications for the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.

And it offered teams a chance to see how they stack up against the competition at a track other than Nashville Superspeedway.

“I think a lot of teams just really want to get out there and try everything they can and learn as much as they can at a race track that we actually compete,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said before the four-hour test session started at noon PT. “This stuff will translate to Charlotte, Texas and a lot of other places where we see similar loads on the left-front corner of the car.”

Nashville was the testing haven for Sprint Cup teams during the offseason for one main reason. At 1.333 miles, it’s the only facility on the Eastern Seaboard with a size and configuration resembling that of the 1.5-mile tracks that are the staples of the Cup series.

Because Nashville no longer hosts races in any of NASCAR’s top three national series, it’s also one of the few big tracks where teams are allowed to conduct independent testing.

“Everybody is really anxious to see where they are (against the competition) after all the off-season work and study,” Earnhardt said. “We got an idea at Phoenix (last week’s race), but that’s a unique race track, not really comparable to a lot of other tracks on the circuit. This will be a real good idea of exactly where each company is performance-wise.

“I know it’s just four hours, and it’s one day of testing, but if you can come out of here feeling really confident, then you just continue to roll in that momentum and that confidence right on through the rest of the weekend. Then you can turn it into a really good result.”

Earnhardt said information from Thursday’s test, which differs from typical practice sessions in that teams can use telemetry, can be useful almost immediately.

“It will help this weekend,” he asserted. “We’re definitely going out today to test what can make our car fast for Sunday (in the Kobalt 400).”