First new-car test shows promise

Updated: August 7, 2012, 5:19 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Don't look for the 2013 car to miraculously cure aerodynamic issues in the Sprint Cup Series.

"Unless we're racing at 50 miles per hour, it's always going to be a part of racing," Martin Truex Jr. said Tuesday at the Goodyear tire test with the car that will be introduced next year. "I don't know if there's any way to get rid of that besides slow the cars down or take the bodies off altogether."

NASCAR is doing all it can with the new car to improve handling and reduce the aerodynamic push that makes it hard to pass with the current car. To achieve this, NASCAR took 60 pounds out of the right side and 40 out of the left during the test, which continues on Wednesday.

The hope is, with less weight, Goodyear will be able to build a softer tire that will provide more grip, create more tire wear and make the cars racier while using the same chassis from the current car.

Five time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said he picked up two-tenths of a second when the 100 pounds was eliminated for the afternoon practice.

As for how that and other changes will impact aerodynamics, Johnson remains skeptical.

"I appreciate the efforts and I understand there are many ideas out there and collective thoughts from all the engineers on the race teams and everybody is trying to come up with good suggestions,'' he said. "I'm very curious to see the tradeoff of mechanical grip versus aero.

"I have grown up in an aero culture and I subscribe to the fact you'll never change the aero. The lead car is going to be better than the second and on back. But there are a few that believe if you put more mechanical in it than there is aero, then the tides will turn."

The test at Martinsville, which also included Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick, will reveal little on the aero front because aero is not a factor at the half-mile track. Goodyear has two other tests to be done at Texas and Phoenix. NASCAR also is planning to test the car at Kansas and Talladega.

"I am all for less downforce and tires that fall off," said Edwards, who represented Ford at the test. "I really don't care how heavy the cars are as long as we're able to race. That's the key and NASCAR is working real hard on that."

NASCAR's director of competition for research and development Brett Bodine said it's too early to determine what aero impact the new car will have. He said the biggest difference between the current car and new car is how it looks.

The new car was designed to give manufacturers Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota -- Dodge announced on Tuesday it is leaving the sport at the end of this racing season -- more brand identity.

"The manufacturers have put a tremendous effort into the styling of the car to represent the cars they sell," Bodine said. "The car looks fantastic. The initial response from race fans has all been very positive. They like what they see."

Manufacturers were given more room to work on the bodies of the new car than they were with the current one.

"These guys have little room to work in," Truex said. "The cars are all going to look a little different. It's going to be exciting to see who comes out of the box with the big guns and runs really good out of the box."

Edwards said his new Ford "looks like a neat race car."

"That's part of why I got into racing," he said. "I like cars. I like going fast. I like the competition and I really like good-looking race cars. I think it looks a lot better.

"From a competitive side, it can only be good for us. I feel our team responds really well to changes. With the COT (Car of Tomorrow) we had a lot of success when it first came on the scene, so I think anything different is good."

Both Edwards and Truex were disappointed in Dodge's decision to leave NASCAR but said ultimately it will make little difference in the show because the manufacturer ran only two cars.

"I remember when they came into the sport, kind of guns blazing with a big program," Truex said of Dodge. "It's kind of strange to see them go. I know there's a lot of teams out there that could use some factor help.

"But there's only two Dodges (Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr.), so to say it's going to affect the racing, that would be silly."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter