A quartet of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers and their crews took their first steps toward preparing for the 2017 season at a Goodyear tire test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Tuesday.
Drivers Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray spent the better part of a cool, crisp and sunny day testing tires at the 1.5-mile superspeedway. McMurray, who will drive the No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet SS for Chip Ganassi Racing again this year, was happy to be back behind the wheel after the short offseason break.
"We've had a little bit of a break, so it took a little bit to get used to being back in the car," said McMurray, who is embarking on his 15th year as a pro. "The tire tests are interesting, because you spend more time doing stuff for (Goodyear), and a lot of what we put on, we don't ever see again. It's nice to come and do a mile-and-a-half test and test all of the aero stuff, because those tracks are so important to our series."
The day was not without a surprise or two.
"Today was a little odd, because the track actually got slower the cooler it got, which is way different than normal," McMurray said. "The pace was a little bit slower than what we ran last year, and I expect it's going to be quite a bit slower when we get back here. With less down force, you don't get as much grip and the car slides around a little bit more, but the mid-corner speeds the last two years have been so high that it's made it almost impossible to pass.
"So, the fact that you're having to slow down now will make for better racing."
Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Elliott's No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy SS for Hendrick Motorsports, felt his team made progress on Day 1.
"It was nice to get back on the track and run here with the new rules package," said Gustafson, who has 20 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories as a crew chief. "We learned some characteristics of the car and what we need to improve on. Goodyear brought a lot of options, and there was a large swing (of types), much more than a typical tire test. The tires were radically different, and it was fun and interesting.
"All in all, we got a lot of work done today, for sure. Getting (Goodyear) its information is Priority 1, and we did a good job doing that and learned a few things ourselves."
The two-day tire test, which is closed to the public, continues at LVMS on Wednesday.
The track's racing weekend is slated for Friday, March 10, with Stratosphere Pole Day, the Boyd Gaming 300 Xfinity Series race on Saturday, March 11, and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' Kobalt 400 on Sunday, March 12.