News & Media

Move toward 2013 cars continues with M'ville test

August 03, 2012, David Caraviello,

LONG POND, Pa. -- Four months still remain in the current season, but Goodyear and a few NASCAR teams will begin preparation for the 2013 campaign when they participate in a tire test of the redesigned Sprint Cup cars next week at Martinsville Speedway.

Four teams -- those of Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. -- are slated to take part in the two-day session Tuesday and Wednesday at the Virginia half-mile facility, the first in a series of tests that will be used to fine-tune vehicle models that will hit the track for real prior to next season's Daytona 500. The 2013 cars were tested for the first time last fall at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"As soon as they said there was a Martinsville test available, I said I was going. I don't care if we are testing bicycles."


"I'd say it's a little bit of an R&D project, with teams supporting NASCAR and Goodyear," Shane Wilson, crew chief for Harvick's No. 29 team, said Friday at Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday's event. "Starting at Martinsville will be a little bit easier. We'll have a little bigger task once we start going to Texas and some of these places."

The Martinsville test will include participating teams from Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, but none from Dodge. Penske Racing is switching from Dodge to Ford after this season, leaving the manufacturer without a team for 2013 at this point. "Due to the lack of time to prepare for the on-track test for the 2013 cars scheduled next week at Martinsville, we have elected to forgo that test opportunity," Beth Paretta, director of marketing and operations for Dodge's SRT brand, said in a statement.

All four manufacturers in NASCAR's top series are rolling out redesigned car models for next season that more closely resemble their respective street versions. Monday, the sanctioning body announced that those vehicles had been approved for competition, and teams were free to begin building them. The early versions of those car models will be tested extensively between now and the end of this season, with sessions also slated in October at Talladega, Texas and Kansas.

The next step is at Martinsville. "It's really just a shakedown," said Scott Miller, vice president for competition at Michael Waltrip Racing, which fields Truex's car. "Hopefully, we can provide Goodyear with some information and get some preliminary information on cooling efficiency and brake ducts and things like that with the new car and the new nose. You're still not going to be able to tell anything aero-wise about the cars. It's basically going to be a shakedown."

Wilson said the cars to be tested will look similar to the vehicles that will be raced next season, with appropriate character lines and fender heights. But, mechanically, they'll still evolve over time. The Chevrolets, for instance, will use what Wilson called "late-model" composite bodies -- fiberglass as opposed to the sheet metal on the Sprint Cup machines competing Sunday at Pocono. Other parts and pieces are yet to be finalized, as well.

"There are still a lot of things that need to be zeroed in on," Miller said. "Like, what NASCAR is going to do on brake duct rules. The splitter and the pan configuration underneath [are] not 100 perfect locked down by NASCAR. Certainly, what we take out there to Martinsville next week is not the final iteration of anything, really."

One emphasis at Martinsville will be to lighten the cars, particularly the load on the right-side tires, to promote more grip and wear while lessening aero-dependency. Wilson said the new cars will be about 100 pounds lighter, and pull about 60 pounds off the right side. Drivers like Jeff Gordon are glad to hear it.

"It's always been known since the first [version of the current car] that Goodyear has really struggled trying to build a proper tire for this car, because it's got a high [center of gravity] and there's a lot of weight on the right side and not near enough on the left side," Gordon said. "So, it just really puts a lot of stress on the right-side tires, especially the right front. Directionally it's the right thing to be doing, but until I know a little bit more about exactly what they are doing, I don't really want to comment on the details of it."

Wilson believes the change could make a difference. "It will help the right-side tire," he said. "If we went to Michigan, and had 60 pounds off the rights and 100 off the total car, we might never have blistered the tires. It doesn't sound like much, but it's still four or five percent. aAnd, if you're blistering those tires three or four laps into a run, that's all you need. It doesn't take much, sometime."

Not everyone involved in the next week's test will attend with 2013 in mind. Edwards is looking forward to extra seat time at a track where he's often struggled.

"As soon as they said there was a Martinsville test available, I said I was going," he said. "I don't care if we are testing bicycles. If I can be at that track and soak up whatever it is that makes people fast there, I need to be there. That is what I am going for."