Penske Racing's new-look NASCAR Sprint Cup Series line-up of Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish, Jr., and David Stremme rolled through its 2009 punch list during today's test session at Kentucky Speedway.

Items on the agenda included a trial run of next season's test rules as well as a shake down of the new Dodge race engine.

"We have four or five different projects we're working on. We didn't feel like we tested that well at Lowe's Motor Speedway last week, so we had to make some changes in our plans. We were going to go to the Indianapolis tire test, but instead we came here and decided to blend this test into the procedures for what's going to happen next year.

"We didn't know how many cars we were going to be able to get ready in time (for today), but next year you can have as many drivers as you want test. We just have to change seats and seat belts (in the cars.) We're working on that to see how quick we can make that happen as well as comparing Sam's car to my car. We're also spending more time on the engines," Busch said.

The 2004 series champ ranks 18th in the current Sprint Cup Series standings after racing to his 18th career victory on June 29 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and tallying a total of three top-five and seven top-10 finishes this season. He was among the first to break in the new Dodge power plant during competition Sept. 28 at Kansas Speedway and said there is more work to be done.

"The more testing we can get (with the engine) the better. In race conditions it ran cool as far as water temperature, but the oil temperature was up around 250 degrees, so that was a little warm for normal circumstances. Maybe the engine has a bigger water cavity, we just need to get more miles on it to balance that out as well as measure its durability. It's just like everything else; it takes time. If it were lightning in a bottle we'd have poured it in a long time ago," the nine-year veteran said.

He added that today's test conditions created a productive learning lab as his team cast its eye to the future.

"This is a great mile-and-a-half racetrack that has it's own identity. It's flat and doesn't seem to have the banking like most of the mile-and-a-half racetracks, but it's a consistent place where a driver can gain the speed that he needs down the straightaway, then get down into the flatter corners and wrestle the car if it's tight or loose. That's what makes this a good testing track," he added.

Today's extended track time also helped Busch and Hornish, Jr., learn more about their new teammate.

"David's been doing a great job for us testing our Car of Tomorrow (C.O.T.) here, at Nashville and even some short tracks, but he didn't know what the set-ups were in the car.

"Now he's seeing the set-ups, the numbers on what things are and it gives him a better feel - especially for the way that I drive and the way Sam is driving. David will be able to balance us both and check us both out.

"We have to have the best drivers surrounded by the best crew to get ahead of the curve. Right now, we're just trying to get caught up to it," Busch said.

Hornish, Jr., a two-time IndyCar Series 300-mile race winner on the Kentucky tri-oval, advanced his climb up the stock car learning curve during today's session.

The 2006, 2002 and 2001 IndyCar Series champion will return to the site of his season-best 13th-place finish for this Saturday's Sprint Cup race ranked 35th in the standings and optimistic about the progress he's made in his rookie campaign. "We've learned a lot and had some ups and downs; not as many ups as we'd like, but there's still time to go yet. I feel we've done some things well and have other things to work on. We knew it was going to be difficult and we're just trying to keep this a learning year.

"Today, we're working on our mile-and-a-half program obviously, but the biggest thing is getting an idea of how things are going to work next year with testing rules and putting all three drivers in a car.

"We're getting different people's opinion on what the car feels like. When we send one us of testing, we say, 'This is what I felt,' and figure out if David and Kurt are going to like it. If they go testing, we try to figure out how I'm going to feel about it.

"We're looking forward to 2009. We have a guy who is a past champion in the series and David, who has two years of experience up here and is eager to go out and prove he deserves to be up here. "I'm still trying to learn my way a little bit, but I think it's going to be better. There will be a lot more communication between the three of us. Hopefully, I'll be right about that when it's all over," Hornish, Jr., said.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~