Nascar News and Notes – 1/10/08

Nascar News and Notes – 1/10/08
by Virginia Vroom of

It’s time to go racin’, boys! Well, almost. I’m getting a little ahead of
myself but it’s safe to say that NASCAR fever is in full swing with only
38 days until the 2008 Daytona 500 is underway. It’s been an exciting week
so far with the anticipated test sessions on the track taking place Monday
through Wednesday.

So far, there have been 6 separate test sessions, morning and afternoon for each day, in which in the drivers have little but good things to say so far about the new cars on the track. Interestingly enough, the track has been the biggest complaint with how rough the surface is. Despite that character of Daytona, however, testing went extremely well and the drivers learned a great deal about the new cars, the handling, and other important aspects that will affect their cars during the course of the race.

What we have heard from the majority of driver reports is that handling will be the biggest concern for the drivers with the new cars and therough track at Daytona. Reportedly, this is the worst that drivers have seen the track and they are adjusting to the conditions that the trackputs on the cars. The handling with the new chassis, though, seems to be nothing bad, just something different. The drivers are used to this Car of Tomorrow on super speedways like Talladega, but they have never run it on a track like Daytona. While they are both super speedways, there are so many differences as any driver would tell you.

The consensus seems to be that the cars are no longer nearly as tight as they used to be going into the corners. This caused a lot of problems with drivers because that generally means that the car is pushing up the track and the drivers are unable to make it stick to the bottom or middle groove, whichever their car is running best. It seems like a lot of the kinks have been worked out with this situation. Many drivers, including Carl Edwards, made a point to say that the cars are much easier to just driver into the corners instead of fighting. They are able to maintain the groove that best suits them, making it easier for the driver and safer for everyone else around them.

Another big issue here at Daytona as with any other super speedway is the concept of drafting. During testing, the drivers seemed to like what they were able to do with the cars. Earlier issues regarding hurting the splitter during bump drafting are being put to rest with what has been seen on the track this week. For those unfamiliar with the concept of drafting, the idea behind it revolves around the aerodynamics of the cars.

When two cars ‘hook up’ and maintain a distance of nose to bumper, the air from the lead car moves around and over the cars as one unit. This allows the car behind the leader to maintain the leader’s speed because he does not have to fight the force of the air around him. The bigger the pack that hooks up together, the faster they can usually run. At super speedways, we see another concept known as bump drafting where the person behind the lead car in the draft will tap the bumper of the car in front of him, propelling the lead car into a better position by creating more momentum.

It’s not a hard concept to understand, but it can often be a dangerous one to practice. We have seen time and time again what happens when someone bump drafts another car at the wrong time, say into turn threat Daytona, and causes “The Big One”, you know, that wreck involving some 15 cars on the track, red-flagging the race for sometimes hours.

Anyway, I was surprised by some of the names that I have seen in the top ten or fifteen in test speeds. I may be eating my words about the COT not being the great equalizer. Maybe there IS something to this car allowing drivers to be on a more even field. The only determination can come, though, through the actual race. I think that we will know a lot more about everything come practice when there are thirty or so cars on the track at one time. It’s hard to make great conclusions about new cars on a super speedway with only a maximum of 5 cars drafting at one time.

Here’s a list of the top ten drivers in the last test session from yesterday:

1. Kyle Busch
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Reed Sorenson
4. Jeff Gordon
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. A.J. Allmendinger
7. Casey Mears
8. Mark Martin
9. Carl Edwards
10. Greg Biffle

One more thing that I want to add is that notice who is at the top of the speed charts. I believe that is a Toyota if I am not mistaken. Dodge, Ford, and Chevy also show their strength in the top ten, but there are no dominant names like we’re used to seeing. This is just testing, but maybe it’s a good indicator of what’s to come this season.

Keep your eyes open for more exciting coverage here in the next few weeks as we get closer and closer to the commencement of another great racing season!