Perhaps the most pivotal test session of the entire 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season will take place Jan. 26-29 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


¿I have talked to several drivers and a few crew chiefs, and they say this may be their most important test ever,¿ said LVMS general manager Chris Powell. ¿NASCAR often has made changes from year to year, but one would be hard-pressed to recall so many significant changes being made at one time. The importance of this test is reflected in the record number of race teams that have elected to participate.¿


More than 50 teams are expected to descend on LVMS to experiment with the new tires, spoilers and body designs that will go into effect in the coming season.  It¿s the first open test for teams on an intermediate (1.5-mile) speedway.


In past years, many race teams have used NASCAR Preseason Thunder Las Vegas as both a chance to tune their cars as well as a final getaway for their crews before the long grind of a 36-race season gets under way. But this year, thanks to new NASCAR rules, it will be all business in preparation for the March 7 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 and March 6 Sam¿s Town 300.


NASCAR and Goodyear have developed a new, softer tire compound that is untested on any track other than Daytona, which employs restrictor plates, unlike all other speedways other than Talladega. NASCAR also has implemented new body styles and spoiler angles for all makes. These changes are some of the most dramatic in the sport¿s history.


¿The on-track competition and side-by-side racing should be some of the best we¿ve seen in years,¿ Powell said.


Current NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth and past champions Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott are slated to test. Five of the six drivers registered for Raybestos Rookie of the Year are on the test schedule in Las Vegas, as well as Las Vegas¿ Kyle Busch, who is slated to make his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series debut in the March 7 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Busch, his older brother Kurt and fellow Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan are all scheduled to participate in the test.


Tickets for the NASCAR Weekend in Las Vegasare available by calling the speedway ticket office at 1-800-644-4444 or online at


Here is a complete listing of teams currently scheduled to test:


Monday, Jan. 26-Tuesday, Jan.27

NNC ¿ Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Jeremy Mayfield and Kevin LePage.

NBS ¿ Greg Biffle, David Reutimann, Matt Kenseth, Ron Hornaday, Paul Wolfe and Mark McFarland.


Tuesday, Jan. 27-Wednesday, Jan. 28

            NNC ¿ Ward Burton, Michael Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, Ricky Craven, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Scott Riggs and Joe Nemechek.

            NBS ¿ Jason Leffler, J.J. Yeley, Mike Bliss, Casey Atwood, Tim Fedewa and David Green.


Wednesday, Jan. 28-Thursday, Jan. 29

            NNC ¿ Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Brendan Gaughan, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd and Elliott Sadler.

            NBS ¿ Ashton Lewis Jr., Robert Pressley, Michael Waltrip, Billy Parker, Johnny Sauter and Jamie McMurray.


Dates TBA

            NNC ¿ Jeff Green, Kyle Petty, Kyle Busch, Johnny Sauter, Robby Gordon, Kevin Harvick.

            NBS ¿ Kyle Busch