Changes in 2014 go beyond drivers, crew chiefs
January 06, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Although the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is still more than one month away, teams return to the track this week for Preseason Thunder at Daytona.
Testing, in an official capacity, is about to get underway.
Changes, some major and some minor, seem to be everywhere.
What's different for 2014? Quite a bit, actually.
The Generation-6 car is no longer quite the unknown factor heading into the 2014 racing season, but that doesn’t mean teams aren't facing changes with their products for the coming year.
Of primary concern is the 2014 rules package for non-restricted tracks, a package that has been developed through much on-track testing and off-track simulation.
Key changes include the elimination of pre- and post-race front ride height rules (and inspections), a new square leading edge for the splitter, adjustments to the side skirt and rear fascia areas, an 8-inch rear spoiler and a 43-inch by 13-inch radiator pan.
The hope is that the changes produce closer racing and more side-by-side competition while making the cars more stable in traffic.
It's not the final answer, according to NASCAR officials, but a significant move toward what is hoped will be a better overall piece.
"I think the Gen-6 car is a wonderful step forward," said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development. "We've raced it for a year. Now we're starting to collect a lot of data and beginning to take the car to the next level. So this is all about a journey of continuous improvement, and continuing to make it better year after year after year."
At least 10 Cup drivers and a half dozen or more crew chiefs will be with different teams, or in some cases in different roles, for 2014.
On the driver front:
Austin Dillon -- Dillon's move to Cup has almost been overshadowed by the fact that he'll be behind the wheel of the legendary Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet, a numeral last used by seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. A former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series champ, Dillon has 13 career Cup starts.
Kevin Harvick -- He'll be in the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing after ending a 13-year run at RCR.
Michael Annett -- The former Nationwide competitor replaces Dave Blaney in the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet.
Cole Whitt -- The 22-year-old made seven starts for Swan Racing last year in Cup. He’s one of two drivers given the keys for the full season by the Brandon Davis-owned team for ’14.
Parker Kligerman -- Another youngster (23 years old) in the lineup for Swan, Kligerman finished ninth in the 2013 Nationwide points battle.
Kurt Busch -- The 2004 Cup champion rebuilt his career in 2013 by leading the single-car effort of Furniture Row Racing into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He'll begin anew in 2014, this time with SHR in the No. 41.
Kyle Larson -- Eighth in the NNS standings in ’13, Larson replaces Juan Pablo Montoya in the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet.
AJ Allmendinger -- After a handful of starts for JTG Daugherty Racing last season, Allmendinger moves into a full-time role, replacing 2000 Cup champ Bobby Labonte in the team's No. 47 Chevrolet (the team was aligned with Toyota last year).
Brian Vickers -- Sidelined twice in four years with medical issues (blood clots), Vickers has a clean bill of health and a full-time ride in the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Martin Truex Jr. -- The loss of sponsor NAPA following MWR's actions at Richmond sent Truex Jr. looking for a new place of employment. He found it at Furniture Row Racing, landing in the No. 78 Chevrolet previously piloted by Kurt Busch.
Rodney Childers -- Former leader for the No. 55 team at MWR, Childers is now paired with Harvick at SHR.
Chad Johnston -- While his driver Truex Jr. went west to join Furniture Row Racing, Johnston landed at SHR, where he replaces Steve Addington as crew chief for Tony Stewart.
Daniel Knost -- Speaking of SHR, the addition of Kurt Busch to the organization opened the door for Knost, who previously served as race engineer for Newman on the group's No. 39 team, to get a crew chief position.
Steve Addington -- No official driver announcement for the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team yet, although Justin Allgaier is expected to fill the void. Addington will be the crew chief after making the move following a two-year SHR stint with Stewart.
Billy Scott -- Another race team engineer getting the call, as Scott previously worked with the No. 55 team under Childers. For 2014, he'll be overseeing the Vickers effort for MWR.
Mike Kelley -- The Roush Fenway Racing crew chief won back-to-back Nationwide Series titles with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011-12). Now he'll try to rekindle the magic as he and Stenhouse Jr. are reunited for the No. 17 Cup effort.
Dan Stillman -- A former Cup crew chief, Stillman spent 2013 guiding the Camping World Truck Series effort of German Quiroga at Red Horse Racing. For 2013, he'll serve as crew chief for the No. 32 Ford of FAS Lane Racing, which will use the services of two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte for the season-opening Daytona 500. FAS Lane entered a joint venture with the NNS team of Go Green Racing and owner Archie St. Hilaire for the upcoming season as well.
Randy Cox -- A crew chief for 12 of Cole Whitt's Nationwide Series races in 2013, Cox will serve as Whitt's crew chief on the No. 26 Toyota for Swan Racing. Cox has been the crew chief for eight Sprint Cup Series races in his career, including Whitt's two Cup races in 2011.
Hit the switch: This year's Budweiser Duel will run under the lights for the first time since the two events became non-points fixtures in 1972. Scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20, the pair of 150-mile qualifying races help determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. Race No. 1 is slated for a 7 p.m. ET start.
See you in Kansas, Mom: After a nine-year run of hosting a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Mother's Day weekend, Darlington Raceway's Cup event will arrive approximately one month earlier in 2014. This year's race is scheduled for Saturday, April 12. Kansas Speedway now has the Mother's Day weekend distinction with the Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup series slated for competition Friday and Saturday, May 9-10.
Not counting green, white, checkers of course: Officials at Pocono Raceway announced in October that the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, scheduled for Aug. 2, will be extended from 125 to 150 miles at the 2.5-mile track.