NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars may not officially hit the track at Talladega Superspeedway in preparation for Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 until Friday, but a handful of new cars were on the track Wednesday afternoon, testing 2013 cars in a restrictor plate environment.
“With a different car, we’ll look at what it’s going to take for plate size and some other things, but the main concern is how the cars draft, how they react in the draft, and obviously to get more one-on-one racing,” NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said. “All of the input that we have from the drivers and the teams so far has been pretty good.”
As previously reported, Chevrolet will transition to its new SS model, as Toyota and Ford bring to the track redesigned Camrys and Fusions when the green flag waves on the Sprint Cup 2013 season next February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Dodge is bowing out of the sport at the end of the current season.
Seven cars, representing all three manufacturers expected to compete next year, participated in the Talladega test on Wednesday.
Below, is a rundown of each car’s best lap time and fastest lap speed:
Jeff Burton (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) made 86 laps. Best time/speed — 48.696 seconds/196.649 mph.
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) made 95 laps. Best time/speed — 48.755 seconds/196.411 mph.
Joey Logano (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) made 85 laps. Best time/speed — 48.839 seconds/196.073 mph.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford) made 79 laps. Best time/speed — 48.985 seconds/195.488 mph.
Brian Vickers (No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota) made 90 laps. Best time/speed — 49.078 seconds/195.118 mph.
Juan Montoya (No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet) made 112 laps. Best time/speed — 49.083 seconds/195.098 mph.
Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 12 Penske Racing Ford) made 103 laps. Best time/speed — 49.240 seconds/194.476 mph.
One of the drivers participating in the test, Stenhouse, met with the media following the session that went for over six hours. Below, is a transcript from that press conference:
TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY OUT THERE TODAY
“It seemed pretty racey out there. When we got in the seven car packs it seemed like the two car tandem could catch the group and then they kind of stalled out and a single car could run right there with them. I think everyone got a lot of things accomplished today.”
WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE OBSTACLES ARE FOR YOU GOING FORWARD IN THE CUP CAR AND WHAT WAS THE FEELING OUT THERE WORKING WITH THOSE GUYS TODAY AND ON SUNDAY AT DOVER?
“I think the finish at Dover was what we wanted. We were looking for a top-15 but obviously three laps down was not what we wanted. I didn’t see it going that way. I felt like our run Sunday we were a little off the first two runs which got us behind. Scott and the guys made the car better and we started running closer lap times to the leader and we were able to do a few more things. It felt like we were off a little bit but we gained on it and I learned a lot. I think we had 30 laps in that Cup car before the race so we didn’t have much experience and that was cool to build on that experience. That was the first place that I have really driven a Cup car where you had to use some brake. It was almost like the shortest track I have ran in a Cup car. I have done a 1.5 mile and a speedway. To get out there and draft today in the Fusion that we are going to run next year is definitely helpful. I would like to take a run at other places and I think it would help even more. Getting the characteristics of it as far as the drag on it and the down force and how to move around your car to get it to suck up to others or to slow the others down, I think it was a huge help today.”
BESIDES THE DESIGN OF THE CAR IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT PERFORMANCE WISE OF THESE VEHICLES?
“Not yet. I haven’t heard for sure if everything is set in stone as far as front end geometry and spring packages and things like that with rear sway bars and all that. I don’t know if everything is set right now. I think the coolest thing is just the identity of the race cars. I think that the fans right now really just root for a team and a driver and now that we have some characteristics coming back to the race cars I think they are going to be back pulling for manufacturers. I think Ford has done a great job with our Fusions. Everyone has done a great job to make that possible and NASCAR has done a great job. I think it will get the fans excited and that is what we are here to do.”
ANY IDEA HOW FAST YOU WERE GOING?
“At one point I looked down and I think we were 201.”
THE CHANGE IN TESTING FOR NEXT YEAR. WILL THAT HELP YOU TO GO TO FOUR TRACKS?
“I haven’t exactly heard the actual idea behind it or how many we actually get or what. Is it four per organization? I don’t know if that is one car per organization or if all three or four cars get to go at the same time. It will definitely help. Any on track time will help especially since I don’t have a ton of experience in this Cup car. I did a tire test at Vegas last year and I think that was a huge success as far as getting me up to speed in the Cup car. We are looking to get back on track at Charlotte with it. Next year with the new body and aero there will be a lot to learn so those tests will definitely be helpful for the team and myself.”
ANY IDEA WHERE YOU MIGHT WANT TO GO?
“I think all the teams want to go to Vegas so they can gamble. No, I really don’t know. I think the crew chiefs are the ones that ultimately decide that based on looking at what tracks are most similar and things like that. I will let them handle that.”
YOU SAID EARLIER IT WAS A DIFFERENT VIEW FROM THE SEAT, CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT?
“I don’t think the seat is any lower but the way the front windshield is slanted a little different it has got more angle in it and is laid back some. The car does feel longer. It seems like it is a little bit wider. I have no idea what the dimensions are compared to the one we have now but it just feels like that. With the A Post the way they are, there are a few more blind spots in different areas. These are things we will have to get used to. Any time you change up something it is different at first and you might not like it but you adapt to it and get the feel for it. That is another reason I think it was nice being here today.”
TALKING ABOUT BRAND IDENTITY, THIS IS A HUGE STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. DO YOU WANT TO SEE IT GO FARTHER THAN THAT?
“I think they have made a huge jump so far. I think we are going to get it on track and see what the feedback is from the fans. I don’t think it really matters what us drivers say. We will get feedback from the fans and I think they are really going to enjoy it and see what they think is the next step we need to do to keep the sport growing.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT LAST RUN WITH THE EXHAUST COMING OUT THE BACK?
“I don’t really know why they wanted to run that but it was kind of cool looking. We had a crowd. As I was backing out of the garage I think that was the most intense time I’ve ever backed out of a garage. There were people everywhere like you were teeing off at a golf tournament or something. I think they just wanted to try something. I am not sure exactly why but it felt like it might have hurt the power a little bit. That was a lot of exhaust added to it. They are going to look at the data and see what they thought. We have a composite body on Sam’s (Hornish) Fusion so he couldn’t really try to bump draft. I don’t think we tried that because we didn’t want to burn a hole in his nose. It was cool looking though. It was tough to hear and seemed different from the seat. I don’t know what it was like out the back. You could ask Sam. I don’t know if it made his temps run hotter or not. I would assume it did but I haven’t talked to him.”
WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER MORE DIFFERENT. THE LOOK OR WHAT YOU SEE INSIDE THE CAR?
“Definitely the look. There are a few things different as far as different blind spots and the roof seems a little lower in the front and the windshield is laid back a little bit. The blind spots will be different for us but the identity of the car is what we are pushing and I think that is what the fans will be as excited as they have been in a long time to see these cars on track in Daytona.”