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Testing draws positive reviews at Las Vegas; speeds are pleasant surprise

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Carl Edwards remains among the biggest proponents of NASCAR's low-downforce requirements. Thursday's testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway did nothing to disappoint.
In fact, Edwards told media members, preliminary runs at the 1.5-mile track offered interesting results.
"The biggest surprise is just how fast the cars are going," Edwards said. "I envisioned the lower downforce package being slower, but the cars are really fast."
Qualifying is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. ET Friday. Green flag for the Kobalt 400 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
However, NASCAR could have a problem getting the race started on time. Sunday's forecast calls for several periods of morning showers and a chance of rain reappearing in mid-afternoon.
There are lights at Las Vegas, so NASCAR can wait out track drying and get a full race run. March 13's race is at Phoenix, so hauling between tracks won't be the challenge teams faced this week in going from Atlanta to Las Vegas.
Jimmie Johnson was fastest in Thursday's initial testing runs. One of the 18 laps he ran was clocked at 192.981 mph. The top 12 drivers all exceeded 190 mph.
Edwards approved.
"This race is going to be more like the races we saw last year," he said. "The speeds are just high. There's still a ton or corner speed, a ton of throttle time. Honestly, it's going to be a little treacherous."
Of note: Cars are creating multiple grooves that should be conducive to better racing. Fans should watch the first two turns, where Edwards expects plenty of action.
The trick, Edwards said, is for drivers to accustom themselves to each and every track. Atlanta provided the season's first experience with the mandates that reduced cars' ability to stick to the tracks. Smaller spoilers on the rear and splitters under the nose are primary changes that reduce downforce.
Edwards' verdict? "Last week, it was a blast. We were really driving. It was really fun."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed.
"I love that the cars are harder to drive," Earnhardt told media members at Atlanta. "I think all the drivers wanted that, and I think all the drivers will get out of it after (Atlanta), even the ones that didn't run good, and say, 'This is the right direction to go.' "
Atlanta is notorious for tire wear. Things won't be as bad at Vegas, Edwards said.
"As the weekend goes along we'll get a better feel for how long we can run them," he said of his car's tires. "Last week was unique. The tires were wearing out quicker than we needed to pit for fuel. I don't think they'll wear that much here."
One more interesting thing from Edwards: Among questions he fielded was one on track conditions.
"The best pavement you ever have at these racetracks is at the moment before they start bulldozing it to put the new pavement in," he said. "And that's the problem. The track's got to hold together. It's got to be safe."
Give Edwards a worn surface any day. The slicker, the better.
Denny Hamlin, winner by inches at the Daytona 500, didn't have as much fun as teammate Edwards. After turning the second-fastest lap in the first testing session, he damaged his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the afternoon session.
Damage to the car's right rear will force Hamlin to use his backup car this weekend.

Testing draws positive reviews at Las Vegas; speeds are pleasant surprise
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