'Tomorrow' Arrives For First-Year Toyota Teams NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director John Darby Pleased With Bristol Motor Speedway Test Rain Washes Out All But 90 Minutes Of Thursday Morning Session DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 1, 2007) -- Faced...
'Tomorrow' Arrives For First-Year Toyota Teams
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director John Darby Pleased With Bristol Motor Speedway Test
Rain Washes Out All But 90 Minutes Of Thursday Morning Session
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 1, 2007) -- Faced with a full checklist of first-year growing pains, Toyota teams campaigning in their inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season viewed this week's Car of Tomorrow test at Bristol Motor Speedway as a bit more than the usual catch-up opportunity.
For Brian Vickers (No. 83 Team Red Bull Toyota), progress was climbing through the window of his team's first, complete Car of Tomorrow.
"This is the first time we've had it on the race track," Vickers said Thursday morning. "So the fact we weren't at the top of the board wasn't a surprise to us. No calls for panic -- we know it's going to take time. We know it's going to take time to catch up with everyone else. And we will."
Catch-up time was limited to 90 minutes Thursday; steady rain arrived around 10:30 a.m., forcing NASCAR NEXTEL Cup director John Darby to cancel the rest of the test. Officials had extended Wednesday's 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. session by three hours under the Bristol lights in anticipation of Thursday's weather.
"Unfortunately this morning we were making a bunch of wholesale changes to make some gains, but we didn't get a chance to get out and make some laps," Vickers said.
The Car of Tomorrow makes its competition debut in the March 25 Food City 500 at Bristol -- the first of 16 events to be run in 2007 with the new race car. This week's two-day test was important preparatory time as teams began with base set-ups and tweaked them off track time and driver feedback. While all 50 teams in attendance followed similar strategies, the data established by Toyota marked another important milestone.
"All in all I thought yesterday was a big learning curve for us," Vickers said. "I think a lot of people see the Car of Tomorrow as a big opportunity and I definitely feel that way in the long run."
With the Car of Tomorrow featuring a slightly bigger chassis than the current car along with two new aerodynamic components, a front "splitter" that catches air and an adjustable wing in place of the current spoiler -- many teams have looked to the past for set-up guidance.
Vickers said Team Red Bull is no different, a strategy confirmed by his Wednesday laps.
"I think everyone understands what kind of setup it'll take to make these things go," he said. "It's just going to take time to figure that out and be fast with it."
Next up -- following this week's off-weekend -- is the series' third event of the season, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Vickers hopes to build on last Sunday's top-10 finish at California Speedway -- a first for Toyota.
"I don't think we can go to Vegas and change the mentality," Vickers said. "Our goal is to make the first five races and we've got to stay on that."
So Far, So Good: Series Director Pleased With Test ... Despite Thursday's washout, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup director John Darby said this week's test fulfilled its intent.
"I think they've been ready to race for six months," Darby said of teams' new cars, "but I think this just lets everybody else know they're ready to race."
Along with on-track preparation, teams also must be ready to undergo the Car of Tomorrow inspection process. Equipment and officials were in place at Bristol to walk teams through the process -- not mandatory -- this week -- and Darby was satisfied with the results.
"At least one car from every organization went through and in most cases, most cars," he said, adding that the educational aspect will pay dividends as teams prepare for the Food City 500 on March 25. "Letting them touch and feel and see and understand some of the new process."
Darby added that many of the cars tested this week were "test mules" that would not race.
"We did appreciate that the teams brought those cars through to understand the differences," he said.
Darby also said NASCAR would take a few cars to the Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., following each Car of Tomorrow event to double-check the effect of a race performance on the new chassis.
"We'll typically bring two cars per race back to the R & D Center to run through the certification process to understand the progress," Darby said. "Part of what we want to look for is to understand that movement and how much they move back to neutral ... understanding what's normal and what someone may have as changes."
As for future NASCAR-mandated changes to the Car of Tomorrow, Darby says they'll be slight, if at all.
"I think we'll always be open to movement of the car in small ways if we have to," he said. "But we've been tinkering on the car for some time now and it's time for the teams to pick up on their part of it."