Teams focused on aero changes in Charlotte test
December 08, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Charlotte Motor Speedway testing should offer clarity in intermediate racing for 2014
The search for a 2014 rules package resumes in earnest on Wednesday as more than two dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are scheduled to participate in a day-long test at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The test was originally scheduled for Monday but bad weather in the Charlotte area pushed the testing back.
It will be the second official on-track effort involving multiple teams as officials attempt to validate potential rule changes for competition on the series' 1.5-mile (intermediate) tracks.
Aerodynamic changes aimed at impacting the effect of air on trailing cars as well as potential horsepower changes are on the table for the test, scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m ET.
Not everyone is sure what it is NASCAR officials are looking for, and not everyone agrees with the direction of the changes previously attempted. But all note that it's something that needs to be addressed.
"We all want the same thing," Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards said. "We want awesome racing that's fun to watch, fun to do and the best man wins. That's what we're looking for."
How to get there, however, remains a matter of much debate.
"It's my opinion," Edwards said, "that if we take away downforce then we open up the option for Goodyear to make softer tires that give up; we also don't have a situation where I'm driving along in my car at 185 mph in the middle of the corner and the guy in front of me is disturbing the air and making me lose downforce.
"So I think if anything, if the car has zero downforce or even a little bit of lift, you wouldn't see the cars run away like that. That's my opinion. I may be wrong.
"The cars are fun to drive; they're easier to drive with downforce. But I think we've got to see something that lets us race closer on these race tracks."
Validation of previous test results, Dave Wilson said, will give everyone involved "another data point.
"I think we have a pretty clear understanding of the direction they are heading," Wilson, president and general manager for Toyota Racing Development, said. "Our expectation is that roughly a week after the test, NASCAR will be ready to draw some hard lines around what we're going to be racing in 2014."
Organizations expected to participate in the test are: BK Racing, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Penske Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Swan Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France noted the significance of the test when meeting with national media Dec. 5 in Las Vegas, adding that he will attend the session.
NASCAR officials Gene Stefanyshyn, vice president of innovation, and Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition, will oversee the test.
"We're after some interesting changes to the rules packages," France said. "We'll be validating some of our beliefs. It's tightening up competition and that's hallmark. We wake up every day and try to do that."
It is expected that multiple cars will compete in some version of shortened "races" during the day to better gauge changes made to the cars.
Chad Knaus, championship-winning crew chief for six-time champ Jimmie Johnson, said the No. 48 team would not be taking part in the test. That doesn't mean Knaus won't be in attendance.
"I'm going to spend a little bit of time in the garage and then I'm actually going to take a little bit of time and go up into one of the suites up there," Knaus said, "to watch some of the races that they're having and try to get a feel for what it is that maybe NASCAR is really trying to do. And see if I can offer maybe offer a little bit of a different perspective.
"I've never actually seen these cars go around the trace track from the stands so it's going to be unique for me just to be up there and see what it looks like."
Knaus, honored along with Johnson on Friday as 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions, said he believes racing today is "fantastic."
"Now we have to be realistic about what our goals are," he said. "What do we really want it to be? If you want everyone to have the opportunity to lead a lap and win a race then we have to make some huge changes that aren't going to involve the car; it's going to involve the structure of how we race.
"But for real racing, I think what we've got is pretty good."
CMS officials had previously announced that fans would be allowed to attend the test with free admission to the Speedway Club Clubhouse.
Entry to the Clubhouse may be made through the main ticket office on the second floor of the Smith Tower.