Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.(No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota) was joined by Chase Elliott (No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet), Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Menard’s Ford) and Aric Almirola(No. 10 Smithfield Ford) for the opening day of a two-day Goodyear Tire test session at Texas Motor Speedway.

With the driver contingent representing each manufacturer in the Monster Energy Cup Series – Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford – they tested tire compounds on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval that was repaved and re-profiled last year. The re-profiling reduced the banking in Turns 1 & 2 from the original 24 degrees to 20 while Turns 3 & 4 remained the same. Temperatures were in the low 40s with fog in the morning before warming into the high 50s with sunshine in the early afternoon. The drivers were scheduled to test from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday with the same schedule expected for Wednesday.

“I haven’t been a part of a tire test in a long time so it’s neat to feel all the different compounds and builds that they bring out here,” Blaney said. “Whether they start off a run different or whether they fall off more, it’s really neat to see and it’s really good to know they’re working really hard to make the best tire for each race track. We will be able to tell, but that will just keep getting better and better as the track gets hotter.”
“It’s a Goodyear tire test so trying to figure out what tire we need to bring back here in the spring (for the O’Reilly 500) and to be able to put on the best show possible,” Truex Jr. added. “It really felt like both races here last year with the repave were pretty good and really competitive so hopefully we will be able to find a tire that will get that second groove coming in a little bit earlier especially coming in on Turns 1 and 2 and help the racing a little bit, but so far so good, so far it’s been going good.”
The Highlight
The test session was highlighted by the historic on-track debut of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which will be the manufacturer’s new entry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series beginning this season.
Chase Elliott drew the honor of turning the first laps of the Camaro ZL1, which will make its competition debut in February during Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway that will be highlighted by the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18. The Camaro ZL1 will replace the Chevy SS, which registered 71 victories since its 2013 debut in NASCAR’s premier series.
The Camaro ZL1’s primary objective for Chevrolet is current-day relevance, in the showroom and on the speedways. From a consumer standpoint, the Camaro represents a more visible model than its predecessor. The low-volume SS, a V8-powered, four-door sedan based on the Australian-built Holden Commodore, ends its public production run this year.
“Yeah, as far as the feel goes, it is so hard to tell,” said Elliott, when asked about the difference between the SS and the Camaro after the morning test session. “I have a hard time feeling much of anything I’m going so fast.  I’m guessing anyways, but no, I think until we get into situations where we are racing and we get some more general analysis of hey, the Chevrolets are better or the Chevys are qualifying better or the Chevys are racing better, I think until we get those generalizations of exactly how we stack up, it’s going to be hard to just make a ‘guesstimation’ of how the thing drives and say it’s better or worse. It’s hard for me to tell out there by myself.
“But, the car looks great. I don’t know from a manufacturer standpoint, from the public eyes standpoint, I don’t know how you could not identify the Camaro with the Camaro on the street. It looks the same. I think that is something to be very proud of from Chevrolet. The work they did on that and the thought process behind it. It is the same car, it looks just like it. I think job well done from that standpoint.”
What They Are Saying
“I think it’s felt different as the offseason went on and I’ve got to do different things. It’s kind of sunk in more, but it’s not completely there yet to be honest with you. I mean just today, to see my new uniform with the champion logo on it, it’s another thing that’s new to me and feels really cool. There’s a lot more things, I guess, along the way. A lot more days for it to settle in, but it’s been an amazing feeling of accomplishment and hopefully it will continue to sink in as we go on.” – Martin Truex Jr. on his accomplishment of winning the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crown sinking in during the offseason. 
Yeah, for sure, I mean look, as I’ve said before, I’m going to be me. I’m not as active as a lot of people are on Twitter. I think that is just because that is the way my personality is. I’m not going to jump out of the box of my personality to appease other people, never have been that way and I’m not going to be that way.” – Chase Elliott on his approach of gaining new fans.
Is it my favorite number? Yes, it is. Has it always been my favorite number? Yes, it has been. So, all those things are great. I’m very lucky and honored to carry the number that I’ve carried for a number of years before this year, so it’s like getting back home to me from that sense, but no, I don’t think it’s going to make me go any faster or slower. I wish it did make us go faster. I would love that, but unfortunately numbers don’t.” – Chase Elliott on returning to the No. 9, the same number his father Bill ran during his NASCAR Hall of Fame career, beginning this season.
“Yeah, it’s been, for me, behind the wheel it’s really hard to tell what changes are when you are out there by yourself.  I think the changes will probably become more apparent, hopefully, when we get to say Atlanta (Motor Speedway) or get to some of the tracks that the changes are going to become important at. Out there making laps, it is so hard to tell. I think until we get into those situations and kind of get some races under our belt as not only an organization, but as a manufacturer as a whole to see exactly how we stack up, I think it will be tough to say until then.” – Chase Elliott on his initial laps in the new Camaro ZL1 model.
That’s something about life, the only constant is change so for me I haven’t really put much thought about getting in the 10 car and it being in somebody’s else’s car. When I get in the car, the only thing I see is the windshield and 39 other drivers that I’ve beaten or want to beat. So for me, I’ve driven the sport’s most iconic car for the last six years so if you want to talk about it from that aspect, there’s been more pressure driving that (RichardPetty blue 43 car than I think I’ll ever have driving a black-and-white 10 car, so I haven’t really put that much thought into it.” – Aric Almirola on replacing Danica Patrick in the No. 10 entry for Stewart-Haas Racing.
“We are all at zero points again right now, so the goal remains the same and the pressure is going to be there but definitely optimistic. I feel like we are in a good place and hopefully we can be competitive for years to come.” Martin Truex Jr. on coming into the 2018 season as the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.
“I mean I think it’s circumstantial. I think in life in general you can’t let people run over you and let them get away with it otherwise they are just going to keep doing it. I think that is just a part of life. If you let somebody control you too much they are probably going to take advantage of you as it goes on and that happens in work places every day. It happens in racing. I’m sure it happens in football, baseball, basketball, the whole deal.” – Chase Elliott on choosing his battles on track.
“You see all their trophies in their trophy case and their championship trophies, it’s very evident why. Just the attention to detail, the amount of people pulling in the same direction – it’s incredible to see first-hand – so knowing I’ve had to race against that the last six years has been disheartening but I’m glad I get to be a part of it finally. I’m excited about 2018 and the opportunity to out there and perform at a high level.” – Aric Almirola on his initial impressions on joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 in the No. 10 car.
Fast Fact
The Goodyear Tire test is open to the public from the grandstands both days, but there will be a notable face in the crowd for those who visit Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday during the Noon-1 p.m. lunch break.
Ryan Blaney informed NASCAR fans via Twitter on Monday that he is going to spend lunch with them in the grandstands at the start/finish line during the break. Texas Motor Speedway loved the idea so much of Blaney connecting with these passionate NASCAR fans that the speedway is planning to provide free pizza for everyone at that time. Fans can access the grandstands for the test through Gate 4, which also has ample parking in front. The event is free to the public.
“I think it’s really cool that fans come out for test sessions and you know, to go out of their way during the week, when most of them are working,” Blaney said. “Whether they take off work or call in sick or whatever and come watch us for a couple of hours, that’s really cool. I noticed that there were a lot of people here today so I said that I was just going to hang out up there for lunch tomorrow and meet some folks and sign some autographs or whatever they wanted, just trying to show some appreciation.”
“Then (Texas Motor Speedway President) Eddie (Gossage) told me there’s going to be pizza there so that’s good, it works out for everybody. I get to eat pizza and the fans do too so that will be cool. I’m hoping we get a good amount of people there and hopefully they have a good time watching us and then hang out for about 45 minutes of so.”
Chase Elliott, an avid University of Georgia football fan, attended Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship thriller in which his Bulldogs lost to SEC rival Alabama, 26-23, in overtime at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. “Yeah, it was a great experience,” Elliott said despite the outcome.  “As a long-time Georgia fan, I haven’t had a ton to cheer for since probably early 2000. A few high spots here and there, but I think that is something that is great about being loyal to a team you are not always going to have your day, as Corey Smith says in his song. But I think that you stick with them long enough and you trust in the process that they are doing and it makes you proud to be a fan when they do have their day. I believe they will some time. I’m excited to keep watching. It’s not going to run me off from pulling for them again next year.” … Ryan Blaney, who grew out his hair and mustache throughout the 2017 season, will have a new look soon for 2018 besides moving from the Wood Brothers to Penske Racing. Blaney said that he plans cut his locks as well as shave his mustache on Friday. “I don’t know man, I thought it looked good,” Blaney said. “I went on a cruise and I had a mustache for a cruise, so I just decided to keep it and decided to keep it for this test too, but it will all get cleaned up Friday. I actually have an appointment to shave this and cut my hair off. That will definitely let me know that season is about here and you have to start looking like a professional and not a homeless person.” … NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott was on hand at the test with his son, Chase.
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