By Kenny Bruce | NASCAR.com
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are currently scheduled for five open team tests this season, according to the 2016 Unified Testing Master Schedule.
Four of the tests will be two-day affairs and will take place at Indianapolis (July 12-13), Watkins Glen (July 26-27), Chicago (Aug. 23-24) and Homestead (Oct. 18-19).
Each organization is allowed to send no more than one team to an open test.
A single-day open team test is scheduled for Thursday, March 3 atLas Vegas Motor Speedway leading into the track’s race weekend. All teams entered in the race will be eligible to participate in that test.
The open team test at the 1.5-mile track comes as teams roll out a base rules package that will be used for all events other than those held on superspeedways.
Teams competed with the package twice last season, at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway.
On the tire-testing front, this week’s two-day Goodyear test at Las Vegas is the first of nine scheduled tire tests for Sprint Cup teams and the tire supplier, although Goodyear can increase that number when necessary.
For example, the repaving of a track, such as at Kentucky Speedway this season, could necessitate an additional test for verification.
NASCAR debuted the Unified Testing Master Schedule in 2015, eliminating private team testing in a cost-cutting move supported by teams. Unlike last season, however, when open teams tests typically came on the heels of the tire tests, this year’s open tests are scheduled months after the initial Goodyear events.
The additional time should give Goodyear time to build track-specific tires for the open tests instead of having teams test with tires unlikely to be used in the track’s upcoming event.
Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch are participating in this week’s tire test at Las Vegas.
Additional tire tests currently scheduled are Charlotte Motor Speedway (March 8-9); Richmond (March 29), Pocono (April 19-20), Indianapolis (April 26-27), Kentucky (tentatively scheduled for May 3-4 although expected to move due to the repave), Watkins Glen (May 10-11), Michigan (May 17) and New Hampshire (May 31-June 1).
As was the case last season, Sprint Cup organizations have been divided into groups of four and will participate in tire tests on a rotating basis. However, it will not always be the same four groups represented at a particular test (one team fromStewart-Haas Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing are represented this week at Las Vegas, however the lineup for Richmond will include Roush Fenway Racing instead of Hendrick.)
Each organization is scheduled to take part in four tire tests this season with the exception of JGR, which will take participate in five.
Participation in the tire tests consists of teams that finished 20th or higher in the 2015 owner points standings.