Doug Duchardt, GM Racing Group Manager, Oval Track, comments on the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup test sessions: WHAT DID YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN THE TWO TEST SESSIONS? "We hoped to see our GM teams get up to speed with the new Monte Carlo and Grand...
Doug Duchardt, GM Racing Group Manager, Oval Track, comments on the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup test sessions:
WHAT DID YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN THE TWO TEST SESSIONS? "We hoped to see our GM teams get up to speed with the new Monte Carlo and Grand Prix race cars and new template rules from NASCAR. And for the most part, our teams have been competitive. We're doing a pretty good job of being on equal ground with the other manufacturers (Ford and Dodge). We have seen that the Chevrolet and Pontiac have been very similar, and that was one of our goals. We're pretty happy so far."
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE PROGRESS MADE TO THIS POINT? "It's been a lot of work from last fall to the early part of this year. I think the teams have been fairly pleased with their new cars in speedway configuration. We're getting ready to go to Las Vegas Motor Speedway at the end of this month, and we'll get another shot at our downforce configuration. We had our first shot at Homestead (November '02) and for the most part, the teams seem to feel like there is potential for the cars.
"After the Las Vegas test, we will have already been to a speedway test - obviously this test at Daytona - and gone back to the downforce configuration with the cars that they're planning on racing. We'll have a real good idea then of where we're at. Las Vegas is probably one of the tracks that needs all the downforce you can get. So the guys will go there with the cars maxed out."
THE GM TEAMS WORKED REALLY HARD TOGETHER THROUGH THE DESIGN AND BUILD OF BOTH THE '03 MONTE CARLO AND '03 GRAND PRIX. NOW THAT THE SEASON IS ABOUT TO BEGIN, HAVE THEY STOPPED SHARING INFORMATION? "During the time prior to the cars being approved by NASCAR, the teams worked very well together on what was needed for the cars - or in other instances, the cylinder heads. I saw this same scenario when I worked on the SB-2 engine. But as soon as the cars were approved, it changed to each team being on its own. You still have Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) working together, but Hendrick Motorsports and Gibbs Racing are developing the cars on their own.
"So, once a new race car is approved, it's pretty much every man for himself. There is some discussion (among them) on various concerns or pieces that need to be fixed and so forth. But for the most part, the teams take it from there."
ARE THE TEAMS HOLDING BACK DURING THIS TEST? "Well, nobody out there puts in all the special fluids and things like that during a test. There has been a lot of talk about sandbagging in the past, but none of these cars have been through full inspection and gotten a sticker from NASCAR to know which ones would be legal or not legal. The teams are running their own agendas. For example, some people might just work on engine issues for a whole session. In that case, you're not really trying to get speed out of the car; you're just trying to work on the engine. Sometimes you just work on chassis and sometimes on aero. So the teams have their own test plans and they usually try to stick to that. They don't really chase numbers on the board.
"I'm sure nobody is here with every ounce of horsepower they have. We see people running around 49.00 flat, I'm sure the pole (for the Daytona 500) will be faster than that. The two test sessions have been pretty consistent as far as fast times. I think last week was 48.9 and change and we were right around 49.00 this week. So I think the sessions have been similar. We've seen an equal split of (manufacturer) makes at the top of the chart. And, it's been pretty quiet actually. From a manufacturer's standpoint, that's been nice."
ARE YOU EXPECTING ANY CHANGES FROM NASCAR BASED ON THE TESTS? "No. I think the thing that's important, is that if you have a problem you need to work out, you're not spending a lot of emotional downtime complaining at the (NASCAR) trailer or lamenting your situation. You can go about the business of solving an engineering problem instead of complaining that you don't have the right tool to get the job done. And that's been a nice change."