News & Media

Daytona notes: Testing on new 2013 cars beginning to ramp up

January 14, 2012, David Caraviello,

Preseason Thunder notes: Noticeable no-shows; Chili Bowl plans firmed up

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The 2012 season hasn't even started, but the move toward new car models in 2013 is well under way.

Manufacturers that compete in NASCAR's premier series have targeted next year to roll out new vehicles that will provide the carmakers with more brand identity on the race track. That process will gain speed during the next month or so, beginning with wind-tunnel tests and eventually an on-track session sometime later in 2012, according to the sanctioning body.

"We'll be in the wind tunnel over the next 30, 45 days with the new prototypes as we do our evaluations on the submission cars, parts and pieces," Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, said Friday at Preseason Thunder. "Everybody seems to be pretty far along, and the changes that will come out of those will be based on parity due to the wind-tunnel numbers. We're optimistic that there will be some real race cars on race tracks probably in the second quarter this year doing some evaluation runs, if not before then."

The move is a collaborative one between the manufacturers, some of which have recently made similar moves in the Nationwide Series. NASCAR president Mike Helton praised the cooperation between the carmakers, which decided with the sanctioning body's blessing to redesign the cars for next season.

"Never before, I think, has there been such a collaborative effort between NASCAR and the automobile manufacturers that are involved in our sport to start from the ground up and design a race car that they participate in the design of," Helton said. "And we regulate it so that there's a level playing field across the board. And the energy level that came from that, from the manufacturers and all of them sitting in a room together to create what we'll begin to see unfold in 2012 and see on the race track in '13, I think is pretty remarkable, and certainly a sign of the time."

Daytona no-shows

There are 32 cars participating in this test at Daytona International Speedway. That number does not include some teams that folded during the offseason (such as Red Bull), some smaller outfits (such as Front Row Motorsports) and some that decided not to test (such as JTG Daugherty Racing). The No. 47 of Bobby Labonte, which added Todd Berrier as crew chief prior to this season, is perhaps the most notable absence.

"As important as the Daytona test is, we have a lot of time there in February, and we'll get more practice there than anywhere else we go," Labonte said. "I feel like we should be able to miss the test and still be in pretty good shape when we get down there for the race. Time spent in the shop this week will be more valid for us to prepare our cars -- not just at Daytona, but several weeks after that."

Helton said he didn't think the number of teams participating in the test portended short fields for the regular season.

"I think there is a good deal more activity out there than is represented by testing and some of the other things," he said, "and the fact that there will be in excess of 43 cars trying to make the Daytona 500 ... and we've been through cycles, particularly when we get to the June, July stretch, where we may only have 43 cars show up at the race track. But I don't see us going below 43 this year. I may be surprised, but I think just knowing the chatter and the conversations that we've had with race teams and organizations that either have participated or are going to participate, that we'll have full fields."

Chili Bowl bound

Tony Stewart has already qualified for the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals A-main scheduled Saturday evening in Tulsa, Okla. So Friday afternoon he said both he and his teammate, Ryan Newman -- who's feeling under the weather at Daytona's Preseason Thunder test -- were hoping to leave Florida that evening.

Mid-afternoon, Stewart said no such luck. His new Stewart-Haas Racing competition director, Greg Zipadelli -- Stewart's former crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing -- had already ordered a half-day of running Saturday, the final day of the three-day test, for Stewart, Newman and their Speedweeks teammate, Danica Patrick.

"He's back to the old Greg Zipadelli that I know and love," Stewart said.

Stewart wasn't the only NASCAR driver with one eye on Tulsa. Roush Fenway's Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a former standout in the U.S. Auto Club ranks, also has plans to compete in the event. Stenhouse, who will drive Roush's No. 6 car in the Daytona 500, will test Saturday morning at Daytona and then fly to the Chili Bowl with Stewart, his former USAC car owner, about noon.