NASCAR CAR OF TOMORROW TEST AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY Latest field to-date participates in final fine-tuning session BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 21, 2006) -- As NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow project nears its developmental completion, Monday's...
NASCAR CAR OF TOMORROW TEST AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
Latest field to-date participates in final fine-tuning session
BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 21, 2006) -- As NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow project nears its developmental completion, Monday's latest test at Michigan International Speedway represented an important barometer -- final tweaks before the car's March 2007 introduction.
Teams from Hendrick Motorsports (Jeff Gordon), Michael Waltrip Racing (Michael Waltrip), Roush Racing (Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth), Penske Racing (Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman), Haas Racing (Jeff Green), Bill Davis Racing (Dave Blaney), Evernham Motorsports (Scott Riggs), Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley), Chip Ganassi (David Stremme), Team Red Bull (Bill Elliott) and MB2 Motorsports (Joe Nemechek) participated in Monday's test, which began with on-track activity at noon EDT and was scheduled to end at approximately 6 p.m.
"The more we run the car, the more we know, and that's exactly why NASCAR has us here today," said 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Kurt Busch.
Monday represented the first time Busch and two other former series champions -- Kenseth and Gordon -- had participated in a Car of Tomorrow test. Fourteen drivers from 11 teams unloaded cars Monday morning. All participated in single-car runs from noon until 3 p.m., followed by group runs during the afternoon session.
"It's about as good as could be expected," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "We've got a lot of new teams here this time around, or new drivers anyway, just getting their single-car runs in and trying to shake it down."
Also significant: The first participation by Toyota, which will make its NASCAR NEXTEL Cup debut in 2007. Three Toyota teams -- Michael Waltrip Racing, Bill Davis Racing and Team Red Bull -- participated Monday, representing the first on-track milestone for the sport's newest manufacturer.
"To be a part of the process of helping develop this car and contribute to the future of NASCAR is pretty exciting to me personally," said Lee White, senior vice president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development. "And I think very exciting for our company and the teams that are here and the drivers. I think everybody is really enjoying it."
Monday's session focused on honing aerodynamics and other balancing and handling components -- setting up cars for maximum individual performance, then transferring knowledge and feedback to the afternoon group runs.
"All the rules and regulations are out there," Pemberton said of the Car of Tomorrow's final design. "We're just fine-tuning on some of the smaller details now, taking the feedback from the teams and trying to make them easier to build. You know, we're ready to go."
Both Busch and Gordon were encouraged by what they experienced in Monday's individual session. The Car of Tomorrow features two obvious changes on its body -- a rear wing instead of a traditional spoiler and a "splitter" just under the front air dam that catches air.
"It doesn't drive bad," Gordon said. "This is my first time with the car and I think this is the first time it's been on a track this big, as far as an unrestricted track. By itself, the car drives pretty good."
"It's fairly comparable to what we have now," Busch said. "It's not anything like a night-and-day difference. It's real close. It's just a matter, again, of working with the front end to try to get that splitter real close to the ground."
Gordon also noted a positive about the Car of Tomorrow's future reaction in traffic.
"You're going to get in behind another car and you're going to push, and it's going to draft good," he added. "The thing should suck up really good down the straightaways, but we'll see. My car is a little bit too tight right now because it's the first time for us. We're being a little bit conservative and creeping up a little bit, but we probably need a little more time. We're going to make some adjustments and hopefully, we got it where it needs to be."
The Car of Tomorrow is the culmination of a five-year design program by NASCAR's Research and Development Center. Its next test is tentatively scheduled for this fall at Talladega Superspeedway. The new car's primary components are safety innovations, performance and competition and cost efficiency for teams. The new car will begin competition in 2007 at the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway and will race at 16 different events next season. The 2008 Car of Tomorrow implementation schedule includes 26 events. Teams will run the entire 2009 schedule with the Car of Tomorrow.