Juan Pablo Montoya kept his momentum going after winning the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona last weekend by setting a new track record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the final day of NASCAR Sprint Cup testing.
The Colombian eclipsed the previous benchmark set by Kasey Kahne last season in qualifying for the Cup event at the venue. Montoya was the only driver to lap the 1.5-mile oval in less than 29 seconds with a lap of 28.914 seconds at an average speed of 186.761 mph, at the wheel of the No. 42 Dodge Charger.
"We've had good tests," Montoya said. "We've had a good start of the year and everyone in the team is really motivated to keep winning, but have to wait and see where we are when the season starts. For us what matters is moving forwards from where we ended last season."
Montoya's record marks the first time that the new Cup car has been quicker than the old specification on a non-restrictor plate track.
However, the Ganassi driver was not the only one running under the previous track record, as AJ Allmendinger continued to impress with his Team Red Bull Toyota Camry, setting the second-fastest overall time, ahead of the quickest Chevrolet of Hendrick's Casey Mears.
"At Daytona you test for Daytona and obviously it is the biggest race of the season and it kicks off the season," Allmendinger said about testing at 1.5-mile ovals. "But these race tracks make up about 75 percent of our schedule.
"It's definitely a lot more pressure and we have to work hard to see where we stand at the end of the test. Especially with these tracks being the second and third of the season, it's a big way to kick off our season."
Kasey Kahne was fourth fastest, also running under his own track record, as were Reed Sorenson and Elliott Sadler, making it four Dodges in the top six at the end of the test.
Carl Edwards was the fastest Ford in eighth, while Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart rounded up the top ten, all setting their fastest laps in the final session of the test.
"It's really the first test that the 48 team has had on a downforce track, big like this," Johnson said. "We've been learning a lot, from myself learning about this car, how it feels, what it does. Chad (Knaus) has been learning a lot about it and what adjustments work and don't work.
"We still have some question marks in our heads. We haven't sorted things out like we had hoped, but we're getting closer. And I think by the end of the second day in Fontana we should know a lot more about the car and have a better idea of things."
The Toyotas continued to shine, especially the Joe Gibbs Racing cars who impressed on the first day of running when they set the pace with Denny Hamlin in the morning and then with Kyle Busch in the afternoon, closely followed by Tony Stewart.
"We've been trying hard on these cars to get more grip in them," Busch said. "So far everything has gone well. The guys have been digging in and working hard trying to make it faster. We are still learning and trying to make it better.
"So far, so good. We are here to look good. It doesn't matter what the test shows as long as you can come out here and repeat it on race weekend. That's what matters to us."
Among the rookies, Las Vegas-based Patrick Carpentier emerged fastest and ranked 21st overall among the fifty teams running over the two days. Sam Hornish struggled the most among the newcomers, finishing 48th fastest. He was involved in an incident on Monday as was Dario Franchitti who ended up 31st fastest.
"Yesterday we struggled a bit at the beginning of the test," Carpentier said. "Today has been a little bit better. I'm working with my teammates quite a bit. Kasey drove my car earlier this morning, and we changed few things and stuff like that. It's been wonderful. They've been working with me, helping quite a bit."
Sprint Cup testing continues on Thursday and Friday at California Speedway, where teams will have their last official test before they meet again at Daytona International Speedway for Daytona 500 qualifying.