Earnhardt Jr. Likes Look, Feel Of His New Chevy
CONCORD, N.C. – Some adjustments must still be made on the cars to be raced next year in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, but during Tuesday’s test at Charlotte Motor Speedway drivers were giving a nod of approval to the 2013 car nicknamed “Gen 6.”
“The cars drive really good,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who noted it was the first time he had driven the cars. “I’m really impressed. I like the balance of the car, the down force seems to be relatively good. The car has awesome potential. This car really gives me a lot of sensations that are similar to the old car that we ran 10 years ago. I’m trying not to form too solid of an opinion of the car or get too excited about it because we still have a lot of things we need to learn.”
Sixteen drivers, including Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, participated in the first day of the two-day test at the 1.5-mile track. Testing will also occur in January at Daytona and Charlotte. Once the 2013 season begins selected race weekends will begin a day early so the teams can test at those tracks. Included in those tracks are Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. There also will be extra practice at Auto Club Speedway.
Tuesday’s morning test session was led by Richard Childress racing with Jeff Burton the fastest at 190.833 mph. Kevin Harvick followed with a 190.215-mph lap and then Austin Dillon at 189.934 mph. Keselowski, getting the feel of a Ford for the first time, was 11th quickest at 187.891 mph. Testing continued Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to resume Wednesday morning. Roush Fenway Racing didn’t participate in the test since it had
attended all of the previous ones, extending back to 2011.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said the bulk of the work on the cars was done and “all-in-all the feedback in the garage area had been very positive.”
“I believe when we hand this car off to the teams it will be in the best shape that we’ve ever handed a car off to the teams to start a new season,” said Pemberton, who noted they wanted to have this test session specifically for those teams who were concentrating on the Chase during the 2012 season’s second half or those that didn’t have cars or parts when the other tests occurred.
“Daytona and Talladega are a whole different package – spoiler, springs. We felt like we had good direction from last year for the cars to drive well in the draft and to reduce a lot of that tandem drafting. I think it’s [Daytona and Talladega package] probably better than what we had last year by a pretty fair margin.”
Pemberton said there were no parameters on what remained to be learned about the 2013 car; that they were interested in any feedback.
“We’ve added some mechanical grip with the rear camber,” Pemberton continued. “We put some large margins in there to give teams an opportunity to work on their rear end housings and to get that grip. It will not be the same at every race track you go to just like the tires won’t be the same at every track you go to. For the most part, we’re keeping an open mind.”
Earnhardt Jr. noted the spoiler was larger and one couldn’t see out of the rear window. Pemberton said the spoiler was larger than the one used this year due to numbers that needed to be met when it came do drivability and down force. The 2013 spoiler is 7 ¼ inches tall, but more narrow and contoured. This year’s spoiler was shorter, wider and flat.
Pemberton admitted there had been a lot of pressure on the sanctioning body to fix how the cars performed in traffic on the 1.5- and 2-mile tracks.
“We’ve strictly concentrated on that,” he noted. “We feel like we’ve made tremendous gains in that area.”
Earnhardt Jr. called the changes made in the rear camber a big deal.
“I haven’t driven a car today with the old stuff and the new stuff, but there’s a ton of grip in the right rear tire,” Earnhardt Jr. continued. “The body on the car behaves better aerodynamically. The car turns off into the corner good. I don’t miss any of that stuff that we had moving around in the rear of the car last year. I like going into the corner with the car going straight like it’s supposed to, so I’m enjoying this.”
Earnhardt Jr. said the car known as COT, which made its final appearance in 2012, was frustrating to him.
“I had good runs and good races in it, but I never really connected with that car from the very beginning,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Personally, I didn’t like the car and didn’t appreciate it for what it was.
“These cars, you’ll be in the garage, you’ll stand there and you’ll see Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas driving by. It’s just great because everything looks different; everything is recognizable. You don’t have to think about the driver and the team itself to associate with a manufacturer. You can look at the car and see it instantly. It’s a great feeling for me and I can appreciate the cars for that fact. Our sport can be so much healthier with that happening.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at email@example.com