For more than seven hours on Tuesday, Richard Childress Racing drivers Brandon Jones and Daniel Hemric hit the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway for a rare NASCAR XFINITY Series test session. The goal of the Charlotte test was to get some extra track time and prepare for the upcoming May race at the 1.5-mile speedway.
Jones, who has two previous starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including a seventh-place finish, was among the fastest in Tuesday’s test session. The driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro said the test allowed the team to work on things they normally would not be able to on a regular weekend.
“It’s just kind of fun to come out here and test close to home,” said Jones. “It allows you to try out a bunch of things that you don’t normally get to try out during a normal race weekend. You can’t take chances on some things when you have only two practice sessions during a race weekend. We threw a couple of things at the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro.”
Hemric has extensive experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the majority of that experience came in a Legends Car on the quarter-mile track on the frontstretch. Tuesday’s test session was his first time in an XFINITY Series car on the full-size track and was about gaining experience and learning as much as possible ahead of the upcoming May race.
“Having the opportunity to make laps at a mile-and-a-half, and to do it not in a strict 55-minute timeframe of a practice session was good for us as a group,” said Hemric. “We learned what the car wanted and what it didn’t want. I feel like we hit both ends of the spectrum and were able to end on a solid note with a long run that we were pleased with.”
Bring On The Heat
One of the things both Jones and Hemric worked on throughout the day was keeping up with the changing track surface. Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the most temperature-sensitive tracks on the NASCAR circuit, and as the sun heats up the track, the car’s handling changings dramatically.
“Charlotte could be a tough place to get ahold of in the daytime,” said Hemric. “I feel like any time you can make changes that go in a positive direction for your car and you can make gains, it’s a very good gain in the daytime. We were able to do that, and we feel good about it.”
While Hemric’s car handled better in the afternoon hours, Jones’ worked best early in the session and the group had to work on the handling as the track heated up.
“We were really, really fast in the morning, then transitioned into the afternoon when the track heated up a lot our package changed,” he said. “That’s what we were trying to work through, just looking for consistency and being able to run the same lap constantly over a long run.”
A Group Effort
Although Jones and Hemric were the only to RCR XFINITY Series drivers at the test, the organization sent each of its XFINITY Series crew chiefs and a host of engineers. According to Hemric’s crew chief Danny Stockman that support allowed the team to break down information easier and accomplish more with their allotted time.
“We definitely had a lot support here from RCR,” said Stockman. “In the XFINITY Series, we don’t get to test all that often, and everybody at RCR did a really good job at preparing these cars to come test here. We were staffed very well and we didn’t have any issues. It just goes to show that everyone at RCR is working really hard at the shop to be able to allow us to have a really smooth and easy test.”
— Doug Rice (@Riceman61) May 2, 2017
The session was not just a time to work on the handling the cars, it also allowed the RCR teammates to work together in a more relaxed setting. Both young drivers with limited experience, Jones and Hemric were able to help one another out throughout the session with the goal of ultimately making both cars better.
“He helps me a lot and I help him a lot,” Jones said of his rookie teammate. “He’s run the Truck Series before here at Charlotte. I’ve run in the XFINITY Series and the Truck Series before here. So, I was trying to help him and he was helping me toward the end of the session there when they got their car a lot better.
“We kind of counterbalance each other out pretty well, and it allows us to work well together,” said Jones.
— RCR (@RCRracing) May 2, 2017