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Loose Talk Surrounds New Car

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2010

The new Dodge Nationwide Series car gets track time during the test at Daytona on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Nick Bromberg | Senior Correspondent

The two-day test of the new Nationwide Series car concluded Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway, and if there was any consensus among the drivers who tested the car it was that the car was loose. Real loose.

“It just drives with a ton of front grip,” 2008 Nationwide champion Carl Edwards said. “I don’t know if you ever did this, but when you were a kid if you pull your front wheel drive car up on some trays at your local drive-thru restaurant and then you set the emergency brake and you drive around the parking lot with the rears on the trays and just slide around. I don’t know if anyone else has ever done that, but that is what it feels like. It is pretty wild.”

A loose car usually means a fast car, but Edwards also warned that the looseness of the car could even raise the risk of more multi-car accidents when the series runs at Daytona July 2nd.

“The thing about that is that when it is difficult like that and dynamic, it will make for a very exciting race,” Edwards said. “What I hope for is that it doesn’t make it so hard to drive them around one another that there is just wrecks because the car snaps loose. We have to make sure we can get them tight enough to race aggressively and not have a disaster.”

Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., said that the car drove differently than the current Nationwide car on plate tracks.

“The Nationwide car, you can run around here wide-open and be comfortable in it,” Stenhouse said. “Right now, the Mustang is loose, but, then again, I look at it as maybe a good thing. You’ve really got to drive it.  It’s not just hold it on the mat and see who is gonna be there to cross the finish line at the end.  I think it’s going to be interesting and I think it’s going to be more of a handling race track than we’ve seen in the Nationwide cars in years past.”

The new car looks like a hybrid between the Sprint Cup car and the current Nationwide car, and according to defending series champion Kyle Busch, that’s what it drives like.

“A little bit.  They drive similar,” Busch said. “It’s kind of a mix between the old car and what the COT (Car of Tomorrow) is.  It’s right about where I expected it to be.”

The new Nationwide cars were intended to be designed with more manufacturer identity in mind and to keep more of a “stock” look. Ford and Dodge are even introducing new models with the Mustang and Challenger, and Busch said the cars do look better than the current Cup car.

“We certainly hope so,” Busch said. “I think so.  NASCAR learned some things that may or may not have been wrong on the COT car and they made some changes to this thing to see what we could do, see if the appeal comes back and if the racing is better and maybe we’ll see those changes happen next door (Cup Series). They do look a lot better.”

Brendan Gaughan agreed.

“I think the looks are neat,” Gaughan said. “That’s the one thing that I think the manufacturers really got a hold of – they want to make them look a little more sporty, a little more like the actual car.  The Camry nose is very flat – we get rental Camrys all of the time.  It looks like one of the Camrys.  It’s boxier on the roof, but of course it’s a race car.  I think the Dodge and the Ford really embraced it going with their full muscle car package.

“I think this is really cool for the sport and it’s good for all of the fans to see the different makes and I like the fact that all makes, even our Toyotas, look different than the Cup Camrys.  They have a more stock look.  We’re still in the business to sell cars.  Everybody has got to remember we’re racing, we’re doing our jobs, but in the end the manufacturers are here to try to sell on Monday.”

They are, however, costing teams a lot to implement. John Borneman III estimated that it’d cost him about $80,000 for one new Nationwide car, and for a team like Braun Racing, a Nationwide-only team without the resources of a larger Sprint Cup team, it’s a hefty price to pay.

“I know it’s a huge challenge for the team owner, Borneman said. “I know for Todd Braun it’s a huge undertaking to make any change in equipment, and then have to spread that out among four teams or three teams it really adds to it.  It’s an expensive process.  It’s a time consuming process.  It’s hard and the hope that I think is with NASCAR and the team owners is that in the long run it will save us money.”

– Nick Bromberg is a former sports writer at the Kansas City Star and a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2010
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