Spoiler Peepers Predicting ‘Interesting’ Weekend
By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
So far, NASCAR’s decision to dump those ugly rear wings in favor of the more fashionable spoilers has been seamless.
But nobody really expected the change to make much difference on the half-mile oval at Martinsville, or even the one-mile oval at Phoenix.
The drivers and teams are expecting this Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway to be the acid test.
Howard Comstock of Dodge Motorsports Engineering said nobody is really sure what to expect on the fast 1.5-mile Texas track.
“This will finally be the test, the real test that is of the NASCAR mandated change to the (rear) deck spoiler from the old wing configuration,’’ Comstock said. “We’ve run the spoiler on the 95 mph Martinsville track, and we’ve run the spoiler on the 130 mph Phoenix track, but none of that will have prepared anybody for the effect we’ll see on the 190 mph Texas Motor Speedway. It will be interesting”
Ryan Newman, who ended a two-season winless string last Saturday night in Phoenix, echoed Comstock.
“Because of the spoiler, I think there’s some uncertainty about Texas,” said Newman, himself an engineering graduate of Purdue University. “What remains the same is that Texas is still a fast track that has become better with age.’’
That’s exactly why most of the drivers are looking forward to this weekend at one of their favorite tracks and to getting some answers about how the new spoilers will affect the 3-year-old Car of Tomorrow on a really fast racetrack.
“I didn’t see any evidence at the Charlotte test (last month) that the cars were that much harder to drive (with the spoiler),’’ explained former Texas winner Jeff Burton. “I did think they were a little bit looser on the exit of the corner, but I thought they entered the corner with a lot of security.
“I think if they enter the corner well, that’s a really big thing to making all the drivers comfortable. The biggest thing I’m interested in is what happens when you get behind another car. There were times on Saturday night that I thought it was harder to pass with the spoiler.’’
Having said that, Burton reflected a moment and noted that he actually did pass a lot of cars in Phoenix.
“So part of me says, `Wow, it seemed like it was hard to pass, but the evidence says I passed a tremendous amount of cars.’ So I’m a little perplexed about it and really am looking forward to seeing what happens this weekend because I think it will be a great learning experience.’’
Joey Logano, last year’s top rookie and off to a solid start in 2010, doesn’t have much to compare the current car to since he never drove a Cup entry with a spoiler until the tests earlier this year at Talladega and Charlotte.
“With the addition of the spoiler, we will be using a different setup then we’ve gone to Texas with in the past,’’ the 19-year-old Logano said. “We anticipate the car will need to be much freer. I think there will be a lot of teams making a ton of adjustments in the first practice trying to figure out how the combination of the tires and spoiler is going to affect the handling.”
Martin Truex Jr. agreed there are a lot of questions and the teams that find the answers quickest will have a definite advantage.
“We’ll definitely see how this new change effects all of us and, obviously, the teams that can figure it out should do well – And I hope that is us,’’ Truex said.
Four-time reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, leading the points again, called Texas “the final test,’’ but added, “So far, I think, it’s going well and it’s driving a lot like it did before.’’
Teammate Jeff Gordon, who finished between Newman and Johnson at the front of the field in Phoenix, said, “If we had this big drastic change, you know, I think that that would really throw everybody into a tailspin.
“I think the fact that it’s pretty much the same, drives the same but looks better – I think it looks better , and the fans seem to want it and like it – I think it’s still a win‑win for everybody. But, like Jimmie said, the real test is going to be when we get on the mile‑and‑a‑halves and see what it’s like when you’re in traffic behind other cars. It should be interesting.’’
– Mike Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment