In Happy Hour practice, Tony Stewart was 25th on the speed charts as he focused on race runs rather than qualifying trim. In the first practice, he was eighth in qualifying trim after not doing any qualifying runs during the Thursday test session.
“I’m pretty happy with the way that the day started here,” Stewart says. “I think our race pace is fairly reasonable. We’re still trying to figure out things to do to keep it good for a long run. But for the most part, we’re pretty happy with it so far.”
Drivers have been busy making practice laps through both Thursday and Friday as Pocono Raceway saw a pavement job done in the spring this year. Stewart says the track has a lot of grip, but he’s not more impressed with the fact that Goodyear brought a good tire to the event.
“That’s something we normally fight when we go to a track that’s been repaved,” Stewart comments. “It has a lot of grip, but you also get a lot of instability and I think the tire they’ve brought here has made everybody pretty comfortable right off the bat.”
One of the concerns right now is the combination of high speed in turn one and single-groove equaling messy restarts. However, Stewart feels that’s not something that will be an issue as rubber will continue to be laid down.
“We’re going to have an ARCA race they’re going to go through the same thing,” Stewart says. “I would say during their race it’s going to widen-out some and just the more we run on it, just like anything else, it’ll build a second groove. But you’re definitely going to be on your toes on restarts. You aren’t going to see four and five-wide going down in there like what we used to I don’t think.”
Stewart adds that besides the lack of four or five-wide on the restarts, the rest of the passing zones are the same.
“Guys are going to be, I’m thinking they’re going to be a little more selective about when and where they try to make their moves,” he says.
In making those moves, some balance their corner entry by looking at references along the outside of the track. For Pocono, there’s reference numbers on the side of the catch-fence.
“I think everybody is pretty much using those, if any,” Stewart comments. “But every driver kind of has their own different deal they look for. It can be something really small. It can be just a variation in the shade of the asphalt that gets used as a reference sometimes.”
While this will mark the first race on the new pavement, it also marks the first race after the decision to shorten the race from 500 miles to 400 miles. Stewart feels it will make for better racing as it seemed when the racing was 500 miles, it seemed to make the feel drawn-out.
“I think you’re still going to have the same quality of racing, just you don’t have to wait that extra hour for that exciting conclusion,” he adds.
One thing for sure is Stewart comes in feeling happy about the weekend after the success of his Prelude to the Dream night at Eldora Speedway on Thursday night.
“I appreciate everybody he helping with it,” Stewart says. “It was an awesome event. To have our eighth annual and our sixth different winner was pretty cool, I thought. And it was probably some of the best racing we’ve ever seen at the Prelude. So I thought I was a huge success. Hopefully the pay-per-view numbers will reflect that too.”