The Nationwide Series Richard Childress Racing Chevy runs around Lowe's Motor Speedway during a new car test Oct. 13.
There's more than a year -- and thousands of miles of testing -- to go before the Nationwide Series debuts its version of the "new car" now being utilized in the Sprint Cup Series. And while the development process for this year is officially over with in terms of on-track activity, things took a big step forward a week ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
On Oct. 13 and Oct. 14, six Nationwide Series teams tested their versions of the new car at NASCAR's second sanctioned test. For five of the teams -- Roush Fenway Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing and JD Motorsports -- it was a chance to test at a 1.5-mile facility after testing in September at Richmond International Raceway, a three-quarter-mile track.
The team testing for the first time was Joe Gibbs Racing, which fields two teams in the Nationwide Series.
and Carl Edwards
spent time in Roush Fenway Racing's Ford and came away pleased with how the car drives so far -- which can be construed as a positive sign since many refinements are yet to come.
"It was good. It drove well," said Edwards, the series' defending champion. "It has good front downforce on it."
Ragan said he believes the fact his Roush Fenway team has spent so much time dialing in the car formerly known as the "Car of Tomorrow" on the Cup side has made it easier adapting to the entry to be used on the Nationwide Series side. The chassis will be the same, though the Nationwide cars will utilize a smaller splitter than is on the Cup car and will feature the traditional rear spoiler instead of the wing used on Cup cars.
The Nationwide car will not utilize bump stops as part of the suspension package, which will help differentiate the handling characteristics between the two series.
"The cars drove well, I think it's a good balance between the Cup car and the Nationwide car," Ragan said. "
You have a little more downforce, but it takes a little bit of a different setup from the Cup car.
"I think the balance was good. They're pretty easy to drive. Really no power [due to the carburetor spacer designed to improve engine durability], so you really have to just keep your momentum up through the corners. It felt pretty good."
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, was satisfied with the two-day test -- during which approximately a dozen drivers took turns in the cars. He said this test was to help establish the foundation.
"It's about giving the teams an opportunity to go and run and just get a feel, get over that hurdle of the first time at one of those types of race tracks," Pemberton said. "We had a good experience doing that with the Sprint Cup car. It's just to get the ball rolling.
"The feedback was pretty good and you could be on all sides of the handling characteristics of the car. I was impressed with the preparation that the teams have already had being that we're not going to run it until 2010. They have really taken it seriously."
Pemberton said the goal now is for teams to focus on the final month of the season and they'll discuss the 2009 testing schedule after that. Since the car won't debut until 2010, there's no need to rush the process.
"We're giving [teams] more lead time up front -- we're looking at almost two years of lead time, so we feel like teams will be better adjusted and prepared for a full rollout in 2010," Pemberton said.
Ragan said he thinks the time will be beneficial.
"We've learned some of the good and bad things with our test program, so we're certainly on pace," Ragan said. "There will be some rule changes and some different things that will probably take place between now and 2010, but for now I think we're set pretty good."
Mark Ashenfelter is an editor at ESPN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.