The UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is still six weeks away, but the Evernham Motorsports team has served notice that it will be a force to be reckoned with on March 7.

            Evernham drivers Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne completed their two-day test on LVMS¿ 1.5-mile superspeedway, and by unofficial counts, they were the class of the field.

            Kahne and Mayfield turned identical unofficial fast laps of 31.42 seconds, 171.851 miles per hour during Tuesday¿s test.

            ¿You have to be careful about speeds during a test,¿ Evernham said. ¿That being said, it¿s a lot better to be at the top of the speed chart than somewhere near the bottom. We still have a lot of work to do, but this is encouraging. Jeremy¿s team is really starting to gel, and Kasey and his guys are coming along very quickly.¿

            For Kahne, who has never competed in a NASCAR Nextel Cup event, this is a big week of testing.

            ¿These cars are so much different from the Busch cars,¿ Kahne said. ¿It¿s good to come out here and put a good test together. This should help us for the entire season.¿

            And for Evernham, whose entire team is sponsored by Dodge and the UAW-DaimlerChrysler National Training Center, the race in Las Vegas takes on added significance.

            ¿That¿s one of the reasons we¿re going to run three cars, with Bill Elliott in the third one, is the importance of this race,¿ Evernham said. ¿This is a race that we concentrate very hard on. It¿s important to run well everywhere, but this one is a little extra special.¿




§        A total of 23 NASCAR Nextel Cup teams and 15 NASCAR Busch Series teams participated in Tuesday¿s test session. In addition to Mayfield and Kahne, Cup teams included Kyle Busch, Robby Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Johnny Sauter, Jeff Green, Kyle Petty, Kevin Lepage, Ken Schrader, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray, Michael Waltrip, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Ward Burton, Brian Vickers, Ricky Craven, Scott Riggs, Joe Nemechek and Scott Wimmer. Busch teams included Matt Kenseth, Ron Hornaday, Eric McClure, David Green, Paul Wolfe, Casey Atwood, J.J. Yeley, Mike Bliss, Tim Fedewa, Jason Keller, David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr., Kenny Wallace and double duty for Waltrip and Sauter.


§        How important was Tuesday¿s test session to NASCAR officials? Important enough that NASCAR Chairman Brian France, NASCAR President Mike Helton, NASCAR Senior Vice President Paul Brooks and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series director John Darby were on hand to observe the test session.


§        The day¿s only accident came in the first hour of practice when rookie Scott Wimmer spun and made contact with the wall in Turn 1. Wimmer was not injured, but had to use his backup car for the remainder of the test.