KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jeff Gordon has enjoyed a good deal of success at Kansas Speedway. On Wednesday, he found himself back on equal footing with his fellow Sprint Cup competitors as they worked to get acquainted with the track's new surface.
"There's not too many people that like a repave, other than the ones who win the race at the end of the day," Gordon said after the first full testing session since the resurfacing. "It's just one of the necessary evils of our sport. We understand that tracks have to be repaved eventually. It doesn't last forever."
Some drivers got their first experience on the new surface during tire tests in late August. For others, it was their first time to drive it — just days before the weekend Nationwide and Sprint Cup race.
"The track's a lot different right now than it was for the tire test," Chase driver Matt Kenseth said. "They did a nice job. It's getting pretty smooth. It seems like it's getting faster."
Rain delayed the start of testing for more than 2 1/2 hours, shortening the planned 4-hour session to 2 hours. Still, the drivers got enough track time to see just how much things have changed.
"This track went from being pretty abrasive and wearing the tires out to now it's just smooth and super-fast, and the times don't fall off," said Gordon, who won the first two Cup races at the track and has eight top-five finishes and two top-10s in 13 starts. "It's only going to get faster."
The 1.5-mile tri-oval, which opened in 2001, was torn up, repaved and reconfigured after the spring Cup race. The track now features variable banking of up to 20 degrees.
"I noticed the transitions out of pit road onto the racetrack are pretty steep here," said Trevor Bayne, who did not come to Kansas in August and was one of four drivers to test the 2013 car Wednesday. "It'll definitely force us to blend on the straightaway later in the race. But other than that, the track's pretty awesome. I think it's going to be fun to race on."
Once the weather cleared and the track dried, the test drives passed without major incident — unlike the tire testing session Aug. 29, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the wall and sustained a concussion that went undiagnosed until he sustained another two weekends ago at Talladega. Earnhardt missed last week's race at Charlotte and also will sit out Sunday, with Regan Smith replacing him in the No. 88 Chevrolet.