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New Cup Camaro Has The Looks Of A Winner

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 10 2018

Chase Elliott pulls out of the garages at Texas Motor Speedway in the new Cup Series Camaro.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Chase Elliott drew the honor of turning the first hot laps in the NASCAR Cup Series version of the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway, and declared the car definitely has passed the eye test.

But Elliott acknowledged that Chevy’s newest Cup entry remains a work in progress.

“The car looks great,” Elliott said during a break in the Goodyear Tire test in Fort Worth. “I don’t know from a manufacturer standpoint, (but) from the public eyes standpoint, I don’t know how you could not identify the Camaro with the Camaro on the street. It looks the same. I think that’s something to be very proud of from Chevrolet _the work they did on that and the thought process behind it. It’s the same car, it looks just like it. I think a job well-done from that standpoint.”

The Camaro ZL1 will make its competition debut next month during Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway, highlighted by the season-opening Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18. The Camaro ZL1 has replaced the Chevy SS, which registered 71 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories after making its debut in 2013 and continuing through the 2017 season-ender in November.

Chevrolet’s objective in switching to the Camaro ZL1 is current-day relevance in the showroom and on NASCAR’s speedways. From a consumer standpoint, the Camaro represents a more visible model than its predecessor. The low-volume Chevy SS _ a V8-powered, four-door sedan based on the Australian-built Holden Commodore _ ended its public production run in 2017.

“Yeah, as far as the feel goes, it’s so hard to tell,” said Elliott, asked to compare his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro with the Chevy SS after the morning session. “I have a hard time feeling much of anything I’m going so fast.  I think until we get into situations where we’re racing and we get some more general analysis of hey _ the Chevrolets are better or the Chevys are qualifying better or the Chevys are racing better_ I think until we get those generalizations of exactly how we stack-up, it’s going to be hard to just make a ‘guesstimation’ of how the thing drives and say it’s better or worse. It’s hard for me to tell out there by myself.”

Meanwhile, Elliott has switched from the No. 24 Chevrolet linked to retired four-time Cup champion and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon to the No. 9 synonymous with father Bill Elliott. “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” won the Daytona 500 from pole position in 1985 and 1987, and the Cup championship in 1988 _ all in Ford products associated with his Georgia-based family team.

“Is it my favorite number? Yes, it is,” Chase said of the digit his dad brandished en route to the 1988 Cup championship and NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. “Has it always been my favorite number? Yes, it has been. So, all those things are great. I’m very lucky and honored to carry the number that I’ve carried for a number of years before this year, so it’s like getting back home to me from that sense. But no, I don’t think it’s going to make me go any faster or slower. I wish it did make us go faster. I would love that, but unfortunately numbers don’t.”

Elliott was joined by his father during Tuesday’s test, which continues Wednesday as a prelude to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Cup race scheduled for Sunday, April 8, in Cowtown.

The driver roster for Goodyear’s test features reigning Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota Camry, Ryan Blaney in the No. 12 Menard’s Ford Fusion fielded by Penske Racing and Aric Almirola in the No. 10 Smithfield Ford fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing. Almirola, formerly driver of the No. 43 Ford fielded by Richard Petty Motorsports, has replaced Danica Patrick in the No. 10 at SHR.

Representing each manufacturer in the Cup Series, the drivers tested tire compounds on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval that was repaved and re-profiled last year. The re-profiling reduced the banking in Turns 1 and 2 from the original 24 degrees to 20 while Turns 3 and 4 have remained the same. Temperatures were in the low 40s with fog in the morning before warming into the high 50s with sunshine in the early afternoon. The drivers are scheduled to test from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST) Wednesday.

“I haven’t been a part of a tire test in a long time so it’s neat to feel all the different compounds and builds that they bring out here,” Blaney said. “Whether they start off a run different or whether they fall off more, it’s really neat to see and it’s really good to know they’re working really hard to make the best tire for each racetrack. That will just keep getting better and better as the track gets hotter.”

Truex said Goodyear’s engineers will use the data collected to figure out a compound that theoretically will put on the “best show possible” this spring.

“It really felt like both races here last year with the repave were pretty good and really competitive,” Truex said, “so hopefully we’ll be able to find a tire that will get that second groove coming in a little bit earlier, especially coming in on Turns 1 and 2 and help the racing a little bit. So far it’s been going good.”

Truex said his offseason as champion has been a unique experience. “I think it’s felt different as the offseason went on and I’ve got to do different things,” said Truex, whose Barney Visser-owned team is based in Denver, Colo. “It’s kind of sunk in more, but it’s not completely there yet to be honest with you. I mean just today, to see my new uniform with the champion logo on it, it’s another thing that’s new to me and feels really cool. There’s a lot more things, I guess, along the way. A lot more days for it to settle in, but it’s been an amazing feeling of accomplishment and hopefully it will continue to sink in as we go on.

“We’re all at zero points again right now, so the goal remains the same and the pressure is going to be there but definitely optimistic. I feel like we’re in a good place and hopefully we can be competitive for years to come.”

Ryan Blaney informed NASCAR fans via Twitter that he will spend lunch with them Wednesday in the grandstands at the start/finish line during the break from noon to 1 p.m. (CST). Additionally, Texas Motor Speedway plans to provide free pizza for everyone attending. Fans can access the grandstands for the test through Gate 4, which also has ample parking in front. The event is free to the public.

“I think it’s really cool that fans come out for test sessions and you know, to go out of their way during the week, when most of them are working,” Blaney said. “Whether they take off work or call in sick or whatever and come watch us for a couple of hours, that’s really cool. I noticed that there were a lot of people here today so I said that I was just going to hang out up there for lunch and meet some folks and sign some autographs or whatever they wanted, just trying to show some appreciation.”  

“Then (TMS President) Eddie Gossage told me there’s going to be pizza there so that’s good, it works out for everybody. I get to eat pizza and the fans do too, so that’ll be cool. I’m hoping we get a good amount of people there and hopefully they have a good time watching us and then hang out for about 45 minutes or so.”

Blaney, who grew-out his hair and mustache throughout the 2017 season, added he will sport a new look soon for 2018 besides moving from Wood Brothers Racing to Penske Racing. Blaney said he plans cut his locks as well as shave his mustache on Friday.

“I don’t know man, I thought it looked good,” Blaney said. “I went on a cruise and I had a mustache for a cruise, so I just decided to keep it and decided to keep it for this test, too, but it will all get cleaned up Friday. I actually have an appointment to shave this and cut my hair off. That will definitely let me know that the season is about to be here and you have to start looking like a professional and not a homeless person.”

An avid University of Georgia football fan, Chase Elliott attended Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship thriller in which his Bulldogs lost to SEC rival Alabama, 26-23, in overtime at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. “Yeah, it was a great experience,” Elliott said, despite the outcome against the Crimson Tide. “As a long-time Georgia fan, I haven’t had a ton to cheer for since probably early 2000. A few high spots here and there, but I think that’s something that’s great about being loyal to a team _ you’re not always going to have your day, as Corey Smith says in his song.

“But I think that you stick with them long enough and you trust in the process that they are doing and it makes you proud to be a fan when they do have their day. I believe they will some time. I’m excited to keep watching. It’s not going to run me off from pulling for them again next year.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 10 2018
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • TheNASCARJeff says:

    Sorry, This car looks nothing like a Chevrolet Camaro nor the Camaro that runs in the Xfinity series for that matter.

    If you ask me it is a Chevrolet SS with nose that does not come close to the nose of a Camaro. It actually at a quick glance looks like a Camry.

  • Al Torney says:

    Chase must be blind. This supposedly new Camaro looks like a SS with a new grill. The race car doesn’t come close to looking like a street Camaro from the windshield back. Do these people really believe that NASCAR fans are that stupid.

    • John S Sturbin says:

      While I remain a fan of the Chevy SS _ both Cup and street versions _ keep in mind NASCAR’s templates have much to do with the final appearance of the bodies approved for the three OEM’s. Are you also saying the Camaro that competes in the Xfinity Series doesn’t look like the street version?