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EFI Testing Advances At Martinsville

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 1 2011

Tony Stewart test fuel injection systems at Martinsville Speedway on Monday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

For the third time this month, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams tested Electronic Fuel Injection on-track Monday, as 10 cars churned out laps around Martinsville Speedway’s 0.526-mile paper clip layout.

Teams from Roush Fenway Racing, Penske Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and two teams from Stewart-Hass Racing participated in the session.

This marked the third EFI test for Cup Series teams during October. Previously, teams had tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Plans call for full implementation of EFI in the Cup Series beginning with the 2012 season-opening Daytona 500 in February.

Tony Stewart, winner of Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, said Monday’s test was all about helping his race team get better. Stewart trails Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing by eight points heading into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Round 8 of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Fort Worth. Stewart has won three of seven Chase races to-date in pursuit of his third championship.

“This test is big for the engine guys and also for our overall organization,” said Stewart, owner/driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala. “It gives them the opportunity to read the fuel maps and get a feel for the ins-and-outs of the EFI system. We’re confident that this system will be bulletproof when we go all-in with it next season.

“You do this because it’s part of the job. Testing is not one of my favorite things to do by any means, but it’s a necessary evil. It’s what you have to do to be better. It just shows you even with the championship chase we are in right now we’re already working toward next year. Being out here today, running laps _ you do this to make your race team better.”

Darian Grubb, Stewart’s crew chief, said the team exited Monday’s test “very satisfied” after “Smoke” placed sixth at 95.146 mph on a speed chart topped by teammate Ryan Newman at 95.956 mph.

“We’ve received a lot of data from the earlier tests and this was a good indicator on how the system might perform on a short track,” Grubb said. “We’re all still in a bit of a learning process with the EFI and still doing some trouble-shooting, but this is an exciting move we’re making in the sport.”

Grubb added that Stewart provides “excellent feedback” on how the car is handling. “Tony has experience racing with the EFI systems in the past,” Grubb said, “and with his background in IndyCar and Sprint Cars, he’s able to provide us with a lot of valuable and insightful feedback.”

A.J. Allmendinger wheeled the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports at the test, his first experience behind the wheel of an EFI stock car.

“It was kind of cool making laps in the EFI car after going 500 laps (Sunday) at this track,” said Allmendinger, who finished 11th in the race. “It was pretty amazing seeing the marks on the walls and divots in the track from the race. We were able to make a few minor adjustments with our car today and all in all, it was a productive test for us.”

Meanwhile, John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director, classified Monday’s session as “just one more step in the planning process” for EFI.

“Since the time we first began testing EFI in July in Kentucky, I think the teams have been able to work through just about all the configurations of racetracks and the different extremes of weather that they will see in 2012,” Darby said. “At Kentucky it was brutally hot and the teams were faced with the extreme heat. This morning it was 30 degrees here at Martinsville, so they’ve been able to test this system under a variety of conditions.”

Darby added he has received “consistently positive” feedback from participating drivers. “When they have the throttle wide open, they (drivers) say the car might run even a little smoother,” Darby said. “When they run it mid-throttle, they say it might feel even a little softer in handling. They all say the cars are handling very similar to what they are used to driving now. If you look at everything as a whole, as far as being able to compare what’s going on today to a real, live race situation, the lap speeds are the same and the cars are driving as well.”

Results of NASCAR Sprint Cup EFI testing Monday at Martinsville Speedway, with driver, car number, make, best time, speed and laps completed:

1. (39) Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet Impala, 19.734-seconds/95.956 mph/64 laps

2. (20) Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, 19.772-seconds/95.772 mph/136 laps

3. (1) Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Impala, 19.855-seconds/95.371 mph/104 laps

4. (6) David Ragan, Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion, 19.855-seconds/95.371 mph/382 laps

5. (12) Kurt Busch, Penske Racing Dodge Charger, 19.902-seconds/95.146 mph/185 laps

6. (14) Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet Impala, 19.902-seconds/95.146 mph/69 laps

7. (00) Mike Skinner, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry, 19.947-seconds/94.932 mph/133 laps

8. (78) Regan Smith, Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet Impala, 19.955-seconds/94.894 mph/103 laps

9. (5) Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Impala, 19.994-seconds/94.708 mph/480 laps

10. (87) Joe Nemechek, NEMCO Motorsports Toyota Camry, 20.204-seconds/93.724 mph/135 laps

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 1 2011
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