When it became apparent that success on the Sprint Cup circuit had a direct correlation with the amount of money and resources at the disposal of an owner, NASCAR decided to make some changes. The sanctioning body set limits on the maximum number of teams one owner could field in the series and it also began limiting the number of test sessions each team could have.
The 2010 season will be the first for NASCAR’s four-team-only rule that will only come into play with Roush-Fenway Racing. That organization has been fielding five teams in the sport for several years but will only take four teams to Daytona to begin the new season. Jamie McMurray was the odd man out but he landed on his feet as he will be taking over for the recently departed Martin Truex Jr. at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.
As you can see, the four-team limit will rarely come into play but the issue of testing directly impacts every team in the garage area regardless if they are a fourteam mega operation or a one-car team just trying to make the field each race. The old line of thinking in the sport was that if another team is out testing then we better also load up and go or there is a chance that we will fall behind.
That was the way Sprint Cup owners operated, and as the number of test sessions climbed the amount of money included in the team’s budget for testing also had to climb. Testing had the same price tag for the well-funded teams as it did those just barely surviving in the sport, which clearly began to give an edge to those teams that could afford to do more testing.
The big money owners soon began forming ‘testing’ teams that did the testing for the entire organization, but NASCAR saw that approach beginning to put distance between teams in the series and began to seriously limit the number of tests. The first crackdown on testing was the number of tests that a team could hold at tracks that hosted NASCAR events. In 2002 the number of Cup tracks where a team could hold a test was seven with no limits on testing at tracks that weren’t on the season long schedule.
In 2005, NASCAR limited the number of tests for Cup teams to five two-day tests and four singleday tests at Cup tracks with unlimited testing at all others. The following year the number was set to six tests with NASCAR picking the tracks. In ’07 and ’08, NASCAR once again picked the test sites but added one, bringing the number of tests at tracks that held Cup events to seven.
All of that changed the following year when NASCAR banned all testing at tracks that hosted any Sprint, Nationwide or Truck Series races as well as regional touring events. NASCAR made the move to a no-testing policy to save teams money, but did allow for testing at tracks that didn’t host any NASCAR-sanctioned events.
This season NASCAR has stuck to the same testing policy with one exception. Teams can now test at tracks that don’t host one of NASCAR’s premier series events but still host regional touring events. That will open up a few more tracks for Cup teams to test but the amount of money spent at these sessions will not come close to the price tag of tests once conducted at tracks that were on one of NASCAR’s three premier series’ schedules. The reported price of a multi-day test session at one of those tracks was close to $100,000.
Testing always had a place in racing much the way that pre-season practices do for the NFL. It gave teams the opportunity to test new ideas and equipment that in return would generally produces a better product on the track come race day. Teams that have the money to go testing are not going to save it, they are going to invest it in another area. Crew members will work longer and more equipment will be bought to make sure that come February they will put the best product they can on the track when it is time to take the green flag at Daytona for the running of the 500.