The grind of the Sprint Cup Series schedule continued for a number of teams Wednesday afternoon as they headed to Bristol Motor Speedway for a NASCAR test session.
With the rules package for the upcoming Irwin Tools Night Race still up in the air, NASCAR scraped the originally planned Goodyear tire test and made it open to one car from each organization. The teams ran the original 2015 Sprint Cup package during Wednesday's session.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. posted the fastest time of the afternoon session, with a lap of 15.247 seconds at 118.056 miles per hour. Rookie Ryan Blaney ran the most laps of that session, with 202, but posted the ninth-fastest time.
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When the race rolls around in August, it will mark the first time Wood Brothers Racing will enter a BMS event since 2011. The team, which runs a partial Sprint Cup schedule, originally planned on running 12 events this season, but added four more at the outset of the season -- including the Bristol Night Race. That weekend, Blaney will compete in the Camping World Truck Series, XFINITY and Sprint Cup events.
"It's nice to bring the Wood Brothers back to a Cup race here Bristol," Blaney said during Wednesday's test session, his first time in a Sprint Cup car on the half-mile. "I know the night race is always one of the coolest races we can come to and race as a driver. I know the team is real excited to get back here as well."
Three-time Bristol winner Carl Edwards was fastest in the day's morning session. Between the day's two sessions, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver discussed Wednesday's test, and the direction he would like to see the sanctioning body go in terms of overall rules packages.
"This place is so much fun. It's one of the most exciting racetracks in the world," Edwards said during the day's break in action. "We're having a great test. The car seems very fast. All the TRD folks are working really hard.
"The surface here doesn't change a lot, but the groove changes a lot," Edwards said of Bristol's concrete racing surface. "People end up racing right up by the fence, and we're not really able to do that today. So, basically this is like the first practice session (of the race weekend). When we show up (in August), the racetrack will be like this. Seventy-five percent of (Wednesday's test) is relevant, and we're just not really able to run up by that high groove. It's still a great test. For us, we knew what we were lacking in last race, so it gives us an opportunity to work on those things."
While many drivers in the Sprint Cup garage balked at the racing produced by the high-drag package used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, Edwards is happy that NASCAR is willing to try different packages to find the best racing possible.
"I applaud NASCAR for trying to do all that they can," Edwards said. "They're trying all these different things to produce the best racing they can."
Prior to Wednesday's test, Edwards spent time watching old NASCAR races from the 1980s and early 1990s on YouTube, looking for anything that may help today's packages proposed by the sanctioning body.
"I believe that as we lose aero-dependency, as they take downforce away, you're just going to see better and better racing. There is nothing better than stock cars racing close and doing what stock cars have done for 50 years. I really think the more we go back toward that, the better off we'll be."
As far as Bristol is concerned, Edwards believes less aero-dependency would create better racing at the 'World's Fastest Half-Mile.'
"The thing that would make the racing great here is to remove more aero-dependency on the cars," said Edwards. "We're going fast enough here that you get loose when you get under people. The reason that happens is because you have to big, flat sides on these cars and when they get close to one other there's a little bit of Venturi between them and it operates on a large area. The more we can get rid of aero-dependency and big spoilers, it allows Goodyear to make softer tires, the tires fall off and you have better and better racing."
Despite his comments, Edwards also said Bristol is slow enough that regardless of the aero package, the racing is typically some of the most exciting on the NASCAR schedule.