2003 Monte Carlo test report

Chevrolet completes successful two-day test of 2003 Monte Carlo Winston Cup car. Chevrolet and Pontiac completed two full days of testing last week at Talladega Motor Speedway with the all-new 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix ...

Chevrolet completes successful two-day test of 2003 Monte Carlo Winston Cup car.

Chevrolet and Pontiac completed two full days of testing last week at Talladega Motor Speedway with the all-new 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix "speedway" cars which will compete in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

We talked with Alba Colon, GM Racing's Chevrolet program manager for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series following these tests:

WHICH TEAMS ATTENDED THESE TESTS? "We had 11 2003 models, seven of them Chevrolets and four of them Pontiacs. On the Chevrolet side we had representation from Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Joe Gibbs Racing."

WHO WAS DRIVING THE CHEVROLETS? "Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Green and Steve Park. David Green was there for the Hendrick team and Ron Hornaday was there for RCR."

HOW MANY DAYS DID YOU TEST? "We spent two full days testing. It was a private test, not open to the public. The teams had an opportunity to test different things in the new car and there were representatives from NASCAR there, who were watching what we were doing."

HOW WAS THE TEST? "We are very, very happy with the test. We had an opportunity first for the teams to do some qualifying runs, try different things that they wanted to try. NASCAR was there, so they were happy with what they were seeing. We had an opportunity on the second day to do some drafting and NASCAR was happy with that. The teams continued to try different things that they wanted to try."

FROM A GM PERSPECTIVE, WAS IT A SUCCESS? "It was a very successful test. We are happy with the teams that were there; there was a lot of communication and the teams cooperated with each other, including the Chevy teams with the Pontiac teams. And the Pontiacs and the Chevrolets were pretty much the same. We were very happy with the response from the teams and to have 11 cars there, that was great. GM is very pleased with the test."

WHAT DID YOU FIND OUT? "GM was there as a facilitator for the test, to see how we could help. Of course, we had people there who had been working with the teams in the wind tunnel, so we could relate to what we had been seeing in the wind tunnel with the car. Every team did their own tests; every team had their own agenda, and we were there more as a facilitator; to help if there was anything they needed from us. Three aerodynamics engineers were at the test, who were more hands-on with the team, and they had an opportunity to talk with them after the test. The aero engineers were Terry Laise, Dwight Woodbridge and Kevin Golsch.

"We were happy with the test and when NASCAR left yesterday they said they were happy with the tests and with the car."

WHAT'S THE NEXT PLAN? "We will just keep testing at the wind tunnel, and our next track test is at Homestead (with the downforce car) Monday and Tuesday after the Homestead race. We will just keep developing the car."

ANY MAJOR CHANGES MADE DURING THE TESTING? "No."

ANY WEATHER ISSUES? "It was a little bit cold on the second day, compared to the day before, but nothing major. We had our full time of testing."

WERE ALL THE CREW CHIEFS THERE?  "All the crew chiefs from DEI, all the crew chiefs from RCR and Joe Gibbs Racing. Pretty much all the crew chiefs were there except the ones from Hendrick. The development team from Hendrick Motorsports was there. The Hendrick teams were testing at Homestead at the time."

ON THE TEAMWORK AMONG THE CHEVY AND PONTIAC TEAMS AND NASCAR: "NASCAR was there all the time to check what we were doing; they were studying the times car by car, and studying what they were doing. Everything went very smoothly, And there's a lot of responsiveness between the teams; the Pontiacs and Chevrolets were working together. We are happy with the results. We have a very equal package between Pontiac and Chevrolet."

DRIVER COMMENTS:

JEFF GREEN, RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING: "I think we've got a better race car than we had. I think we all know we've got a better race car on the intermediate tracks and the downforce tracks, but the restrictor plate tracks we were concerned about. What we saw the last couple of days was that the car reacts to a lot of changes. I think we've got something that we can really build on and make it probably a better car than we had."

HOW MANY MILES DID YOU RUN? "I ran 500 miles the first day. We probably did 400 miles the second day. We tried a lot of body stuff, panels, trying to make the body more aerodynamic or try to slip through the air better and we tried a lot of chassis stuff the second day. I think it was a very productive test. The 31 was there, Ron Hornaday was driving it, and I think they learned a lot of stuff too. When we do go test Daytona or Talladega in January I think we'll be a lot more prepared than we would have been if we hadn't had this test."

DID YOU TEST DRAFTING? "Ron did. We really worked on speed on our car. The 15 (Michael Waltrip), 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and 31 were together a lot. The 15 was still fast. Whatever they do to their car to build that thing they do it right. It transferred over to the new car too. We've just got to figure that out."

DAVID GREEN, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: "Number one, it was quite an honor to just go down there and help those guys out. We actually went to Kentucky three weeks before to do the downforce car and I ran it. The car really responded well. To go to Talladega and spend two days and be around Hendrick Motorsports' R&D program, what an education. Everything was so positive. The guys were so relaxed, knowing that every bitty, minute change to the car responded greatly. It's been hard to do that over the years with superspeedway cars. But this car here shows that, with every minute change that we made to the car, it responded. In our terminology at Hendrick Motorsports, it's going to be a fantastic car and we came out of there with just a lot of good information and high hopes for next year. It was just a neat deal. I was more overwhelmed at just being the guy that they picked to go do that stuff, and to be able to be one of the initial guys to give some feedback on the car was like Christmas in October."

HOW MANY MILES/LAPS DID YOU RUN?  "I think we actually ran close to100 laps, about 50 each day, and did a lot of basic groundwork, aero stuff and whatnot. And, again, the R&D team, as well as everyone else, know that at Daytona and Talladega, Jeff Gordon, the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) , the 25 (Joe Nemechek), the 5 (Terry Labonte), all those guys have been top-notch. To see a big smile on those guys' faces, I thought we were all headed in the right direction. The car is fantastic."

STEVE PARK, DALE EARNHARDT INC.: "We're excited about it. We felt just testing it that the car is definitely better than what we have right now. A lot of positives have come out of testing; the car is going to be better than the great race car we have right now, so we're actually looking forward to next year."

MICHAEL WALTRIP, DALE EARNHARDT INC.: "We were way off our times from the 2002 car, but we figured we would be; that was our first try. The thing just drove so good; it was real balanced. Now we'll go home and work into the car everything we learned from the test and look forward to our test at Homestead."

HOW MANY LAPS DID YOU RUN? "I ran a bunch. I probably ran close to 300-400 miles; we got a lot of information, and that's the cool thing about our team. We gather a bunch of information and then we can go back and sort it all out and come back with a better plan next time."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Steve Park , Joe Nemechek , Jeff Green , Ron Hornaday Jr. , David Green
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing