By Tom Zulewski
Iron County Today
LAS VEGAS – The calendar may say the Daytona 500 is less than two weeks away, but Kyle Larson had plenty of reasons to look forward for the Monster Energy Cup Series season ahead.
With a new body style on his No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro, Larson topped the charts for both days of testing Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver ran his top lap in the afternoon session on day 1 at 188.403 mph (28.662 seconds), then went even faster on day 2, turning in a best lap of 191.259 mph (28.234 seconds).
“It was a really good test overall, and I was pretty excited to get here and get in the new Camaro,” said Larson, who was testing the new ZL1 that replaced the SS. “These were my first laps in it, so it’s just nice to know it has as much speed or more than what we had last year.”
Ryan Newman, who was second to Larson on the speed chart in day 2 of testing at 190.027 mph, said the experience gave all of the Chevrolet drivers valuable information for the new style of race car they’ll be driving for 2018.
“I feel like we got a good start with the new Camaro ZL1,” Newman said in a speedway release. “We’ll go through our notes and see how good we can do on our homework. The guys definitely want loads of data with the new car, and we definitely collected that.”
Rookie of the Year candidate and Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron topped the charts in the morning test session Feb. 1 at 189.281 mph and was sixth in the afternoon.
“I don’t have much to compare it to, but the new ZL1 has been pretty good so far,” Byron said. “It’s shown the speed, and we feel like we’ve got it driving pretty good. Hopefully that’s a good thing when we come back here (in March). It’s hard to know what it’s going to feel like, but it helped me get started, know what my lift points were, and how to work with the team.”
The 20-year-old Byron is the new driver of the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Chase Elliott, who moved over to the new No. 9 Chevrolet for HMS.
Among the other drivers in new rides or making their debuts in Cup from the test session:
-Paul Menard was sixth in the Day 2 morning session in the No. 21 Ford Fusion for Wood Brothers Racing. His best lap around the 1.5-mile oval was 187.500 mph.
-Erik Jones was third in the Day 2 afternoon session in the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. His best lap was 190.007 mph.
-Darrell Wallace Jr. was eighth in the Feb. 1 afternoon session in the No. 43 Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports. His best lap was 187.298 mph.
The speedway also announced its official title sponsor to kick off the first of two tripleheader weekends March 2. The Camping World Truck Series race will be the Stratosphere 200 and start at 7 p.m. Mountain time. It will be 134 laps, 12 shorter than in past years, when it ran as 350 kilometers.