CONCORD — A test Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway to experiment with possible aerodynamic modifications in NASCAR might yield some significant results for the sport.
Then again, it might not.
But either way, what happens at CMS will at least be a learning experience for Sprint Cup drivers and the new “Gen-6” car.
“It could really help, or it could not,” said Jeff Burton, who will drive in the test. “But even if you’re doing something that doesn’t work, you can still learn something.”
Six drivers, representing the sport’s three manufacturers, will take part in the test: Chevy’s Burton and Jamie McMurray; Ford’s Brad Keselowski and Trevor Bayne; and Toyota’s Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers.
The test will focus on aerodynamics, with the size and shape of front splitters, spoilers and chassis height all to be scrutinized.
“We’ll try different combinations, but the whole thrust will be about aerodynamics, bundling it into three packages,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR’s vice president of innovation and racing development.
NASCAR is in the first year of racing with the so-called “Gen-6” car. After the introduction in 2007 of the boxy-looking “Car of Tomorrow,” the Gen-6 cars more closely resemble the Ford Fusions, Chevy SS’s and Toyota Camrys sold by manufacturers on showroom floors.
“We think everybody’s feel pretty comfortable with the car now,” said Stefanyshyn. “But it’s all about at continuing to look at the product, trying to dial it in and make it better.”
Burton applauds NASCAR having the test, even if things might not necessarily need tweaking, at least for now.
“I think we just want to see if there’s something out there that can make passing cars easier, or catching a guy easier – anything to promote more exciting racing,” he said. “I’ve been in racing for a long time and there’s nothing wrong with racing now. But there’s nothing wrong with trying to make it better.”
There are other factors that influencing the competition that don’t necessarily includes aerodynamics, however.
“I hear they have got a lot of ideas and things to try,” said Kasey Kahne, who finished second in Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at CMS and isn’t one of the test drivers. “I imagine they’ll learn some things. All of us are running so close – the top six (in qualifying) were within about one-tenth (of a second) of each other. I think tires are a big part of it. Goodyear is always getting the tires better and that helps the racing.”
Burton said the test drivers will go out separately with each modification package, then race in packs. After each test segment, they’ll come in and give Stefanyshyn’s staff their feedback.
“It’s how the cars turn, how much they grip,” said Burton. “How do they respond being beside another car. Every driver feels something different with a different package. You can go out there and see that it allows you to do ‘x,’ and you can see that there’s something that can define what that is.”
Stefanyshyn said that if something comes from the test that will immediately enhance racing, it will be included in cars for the 2014 season.
“That’s the thinking,” he said. “If we find something good and it improves the sports, we will implement it.”
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