Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano once had a bitter feud on the racetrack. So it probably comes as no great surprise they view tire testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway through a different prism.
“It’s hard to tell out here, just four cars, you’re running by yourself and the way the weather is and all that stuff, you won’t be able to tell until you get in a pack in a few weeks,” Kenseth said about NASCAR’s new downforce package.
And what about the new Camry he will be driving for car owner Joe Gibbs?
“Again, it’s hard to tell when you are by yourself,” the 2003 Cup Series champion and three-time Las Vegas race winner said. “It seems to be as good as it was last year, and that’s always encouraging with a new model, because you always hope to make it better.”
Kenseth smiled once or twice, said he was glad to be here. Again.
“There are days when every time you get in a racecar, you think you learn something,” the 44-year-old veteran from Wisconsin said. “And then there are other days when you’re out here making three-lap runs on tires and you’re like, ‘somebody else could be doing this.’ You don’t feel like you’ve picked up anything.
“But it depends. I think you learn a little something … to make your cars better, something you’re doing to make yourself better on the racetrack, (so) it’s always worth it.”
When it was Logano’s turn to speak to local media, he was smiling from ear to ear. Logano always smiles from ear to ear. But he sounded genuinely excited to be back behind the wheel of Roger Penske’s Pennzoil car, even if it was painted primer gray instead of brilliant yellow.
“Anytime you’re on the racetrack, there’s a lot of value to that,” said the 2015 Daytona 500 winner and 2016 Cup Series runner-up. “This was a tire test and we’re changing through a lot of tires and it’s hard for us to learn much about our racecar because we’re testing the tire itself. But …”
Logano raised his eyebrows and broke into an ever wider grin, as wide as the front stretch at Pocono Raceway.
“But the fact you get to drive a racecar is a lot of fun for me,” Logano, 26, said. “It’s nice to knock the rust off. The way NASCAR’s rules are these days, a lot of drivers aren’t going to race anything between the last race of the year and the Daytona 500 in about a month or so.”
Jamie McMurray also took part in the test but did not stop by the media center to chat. Chase Elliott, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, said a big difference between this year and last is that this year he is 21. The second generation driver marked his 21st birthday on Nov. 28.
“It’s real good to get back in and get acclimated and sharpen up your skills,” the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet said. “This is a good place to do it, similar to a lot of tracks we go to. This is as aggressive as I’ve seen (Goodyear) with making changes and willing to try new things with the tire.
“I’ve enjoyed our time. It’s a unique town to come to. And I’ve just turned 21. First trip out here, it’s a little different being 21 in Vegas as opposed to not. But we stay pretty busy so it doesn’t matter a whole lot for us anyway.”
His smile, nearly as wide as Joey Logano’s, said otherwise.
Contact Ron Kantowski at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.