Jeff Gordon was only half-kidding when he suggested that racing NASCAR’s new low-downforce aerodynamic package for Sprint Cup Series cars without benefit of practice might have been a good idea.
“I think there is a part of me that thought it would have been really cool had we not had any practice and just went cold turkey and did it and see what it was like,” Gordon said Friday afternoon, after being gifted with 96 bottles of bourbon whiskey from four of Kentucky’s legendary master distillers.
But, no, Gordon had not been sampling the distillers’ product when he made his comments. And in actual fact, he acknowledged the value of practicing the new package on Friday afternoon before competing in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night.
“It was good to get out there and get some laps,” said Gordon, who will retire from full-time Sprint Cup racing at season’s end and join the Fox Sports broadcast team. “I think we all recognize how important it was to do that before the race (Saturday night) because of this new package and the things we are trying and the unknowns.
“This is a tricky racetrack. Certainly that is no secret. It is a very challenging racetrack. You take 1,000 pounds of downforce off the cars, as well as the reduction in horsepower that we have had all year, but have not run here yet. We need track time. I was glad we were able to get on there. We would have liked to have had it with the data acquisition on the cars like we planned on having on Wednesday (when testing was rained out), but we’ll take whatever we can get.”
Gordon had a good idea of what effect the smaller spoiler in use at Kentucky might have, but he opted to reserve judgment until he has actually raced the new combination.
“To me the car drives kind of like what you would expect,” Gordon said after Friday’s 90-minute practice. “It doesn’t have as much grip; you can’t be quite as aggressive with it. But the balance is pretty good front-to-rear. I think we’re fighting a little bit of the front downforce more than the rear downforce, but I think we are going to battle with a little bit of both.
“I haven’t been in a lot of traffic yet, but a little bit. It just seemed like whatever we had going on with the car just accentuate that. It is still early on to be able to really give a clear evaluation.”