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From the Marbles

Pocono’s new surface will be faster, but will it be better?

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Testing at Pocono is underway. (Getty Images)

Drivers have been testing the new surface at Pocono this week in advance of Sunday's race, and if initial lap times are any indication, we're in for a far faster afternoon than we've had at Pocono in recent years.

The track was repaved for the first time since 1995, and while the track's surface hasn't always been the point of concern around here — the three distinct corners are — drivers were leery enough of the new changes that they showed up in droves for the testing this week. Many even jetted in and out of Pocono to meet their commitment to Tony Stewart's Eldora race.

The fastest driver in initial laps? Mark Martin, who got around the track at 175.380 mph. Besides Martin, 32 other drivers beat Ryan Newman's practice speed in 2001 of 170.026 mph. For comparison's sake, Kasey Kahne's qualifying record, set in 2004, was 172.533 mph back in 2004.

""For a new pavement surface, [Goodyear] did a good job matching the surface and the tire," said Denny Hamlin. "Really, we're just running in each other's snow tracks right now. There's a distinct line along the bottom of which you have to run and you can't get out of it. That part of it is going to be tough, but really it's going to be a fight for whoever gets position on each other into the corner. There will be a lot of drafting and things like that down the straightaway and you're going to see massive dive bombs going into the corner trying to get position. My estimation is you'll probably see a lot of excitement."

However, in a potentially ominous note (relatively speaking, of course), Hamlin noted that there's really only one strong line, the low one, and that there's not yet enough grip in the high line. Could that lead to a parade on Sunday? We shall see.

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