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Test sessions are much needed



So far this season, the cry from the garage area is that no team actually has a good handle on the Car of Tomorrow. Even though the governing body and the individual teams have been working for several years on the new make, when the car hit the track full time this season there seemed to be more questions than answers about what would make the car go faster and handle better.

Although the racing has been competitive at the majority of stops on the schedule this season, most drivers and fans will agree there needs to be more side-byside racing to make the sport more exciting. In order for that to come about, the teams along with Goodyear are going to need some more opportunities to test.

Ever since the car first unloaded in February at Daytona, it has been a constant struggle with the teams to try and get the new cars to handle. This job was made all the more difficult by the hard tires Goodyear was bringing to the track each week. The tire definitely played into the equation of setting up the car, but the fact remains that this is a new car that for the first time is being campaigned at every stop on the schedule.

NASCAR has had to listen to the very vocal garage area all season long about the problems it was having with the car and has responded by scheduling an additional test for May 5-6 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The data collected at this test on the mile-and-a-half intermediate track should be very useful as there are 17 races on intermediate tracks still on the schedule.

The test will not only give the race teams the opportunity to try new things on their cars, but will also give Goodyear an opportunity to try a different tire compound before the series returns to Lowe’s on Memorial Day weekend for the running of the Coca-Cola 600. That race starts with a hot slick track and ends well after the sun has gone down, which forces the teams to have to adapt to a much cooler racing surface. That’s a tough call, not only for the teams but also for Goodyear that has to try and make a tire to fit those changing conditions.

Lowe’s will not be the only site for Sprint Cup testing during the month of May as the series will also be testing at Pocono Raceway on May 27-28. Pocono’s huge two-and-a-half mile flat layout will present a different set of problems compared to what the teams will encounter at Lowe’s. While there are not as many tracks like Pocono on the schedule, there are enough – especially during the summer stretch of the schedule – to make the test very important as the series rolls towards the Chase.

Both of these test sessions should go a long way in helping the teams figure out what they have with the new race cars, but what can’t be lost in this process is the fact that it is a “new” car and – just like with every new car that has been phased in the sport over the years – there will always be growing pains involved. Maybe the biggest change with this car is that it demands more out of the driver than in years past and that not every driver is up to the challenge of getting up on the wheel to get the car around the track.

What could no doubt make both the crew chief’s job of setting up the car and the driver’s job behind the wheel a little easier is the tire Goodyear brings to the track each week. There is no way the majority of the blame can be put on the tire manufacturer because at the end of the day, Goodyear has brought a safe tire to the track.

Sometimes a safe tire is a slow tire, but Goodyear is like the race teams in that it is also dealing with this car for the first time. You can’t fault Goodyear for leaning toward a safer (harder) tire than a faster (softer) tire because it does have the fate of 43 drivers in its hands.

The car is a handful right now, but give those working in the garage area some time and they will figure it out just like every other change that has come into the sport over the years. The bottom line is if it just takes hard work, those working in the garage area will get the job done!

Race Preview – Event: Aaron’s 499. Track: Talladega Superspeedway (2.66-mile trioval, 33 degrees of banking in the turns). Date: April 27, 2p.m. TV: Fox. Radio: MRN. Defending champion: Jeff Gordon.

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