NASCAR drivers hit 214 mph during Indy tire test

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - NASCAR had the perfect combination for the start of Tuesday’s tire test in Indianapolis.

Cool track, new tires, long straightaways and cars with grip.

It doesn’t get any better than that , and they aren’t likely go much faster than this, either. After Mark Martin wrote on Twitter that he had hit 212 mph in the backstretch during the morning session, a disbelieving Jeff Gordon walked over to his team to see what it had recorded.

“They said 214 and I said, `My gosh, it really is fast,’” Gordon said.

To put the speeds in perspective, Denny Hamlin won last year’s Brickyard 400 pole with a fast lap of 182.293 mph. Gordon said all the cars Tuesday were faster.

The incredibly quick speeds didn’t last long when the temperatures warmed up and tires started wearing faster. And while nobody expects the cars to go anywhere close to these speeds in late July, everybody was encouraged by the early performance of the new Gen-6 cars on one of America’s most historic, and tricky tracks.

“Like so many other tracks, this car adapts well, it sticks really well to the track,” said Gordon, who has won all four of his Cup titles with Hendrick Motorsports. “I’m pretty happy today because I think it went well.”

All of that is good news for a series that hasn’t always had the smoothest races on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval.

Tire wear had been an issue for years before the 2008 race turned into a caution-marred debacle of short sprints. Since then, Goodyear has come out with tire compounds that have worked better at Indy.

On Tuesday, Gordon and a handful of other drivers were asked to start the testing on a new more environmentally friendly tire. It worked spectacularly well under ideal conditions. The tires, Gordon said, did not respond nearly as well in the afternoon, and Trevor Bayne, who also tested, noted his speeds were down by about one full second per lap in the heat.

The bigger concern?

“You want balance so the car enters the turn comfortably and that’s what we had,” Gordon said. “But it was definitely wearing a little more than we wanted it to.”

So drivers tested other tire compounds with mixed results.

The same drivers will return to the track Wednesday for another closed practice.

For some, like Gordon, the test gave him valuable information long before other drivers could take their new cars onto the track.

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