FORT WORTH, Texas (January 19, 2010) – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers became the first drivers to conduct an on-track test with a new aluminum spoiler package that could be implemented for the 2010 season during Tuesday’s Goodyear Tire test at Texas Motor Speedway.
Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala) was the first of the group to test the spoiler in the morning session, which was delayed nearly two hours from its 9 a.m. CT start time due to moisture on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval from heavy morning dew.
The session kicked off at approximately 10:53 a.m. with temperatures in the 60s as Stewart rolled out with the wing and less than 40 minutes later was utilizing the spoiler. Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry) also got an opportunity to run the spoiler in the abbreviated morning session.
“It (the spoiler) was on a bunch. It didn’t seem to be a big balance change which was good,” Stewart said. “That means you won’t have to invent the wheel necessarily. It was a balance shift, but it wasn’t a big balance shift. You’ve got two kinds of grip – you’ve got aero grip and you’ve got mechanical grip. The spoiler is the aero grip and the tires are mechanical. The mechanical grip is real important because it doesn’t know if you are running first in line or 10th in line. I’m more of a mechanical guy.”
“I thought it (spoiler) was good,” Vickers said. “I thought it added a little bit of front downforce, which is a good thing. I think it’s going to be more accepted to the fans. It looks cooler – a little more retro back to the older car.
“We haven’t been in a lot of traffic yet, so the big question is how it’s going to handle in traffic. Theoretically, from what I’ve been told, the difference between the two is that the spoiler is better in traffic. The spoiler is going to be more efficient in dirty air and a wing will be more efficient in clean air. Once you get in a lot of turbulence, the spoiler’s not going to lose a lot of efficiency while a wing really will.”
NASCAR has not determined the specific dimensions as yet for the spoiler, but the one that was being used as a baseline at Tuesday’s session was 64.5 inches wide and four inches in height with no contour in the design. Also, the rear quarter panels were extended four inches toward the ground.
NASCAR phased out the traditional spoiler on the rear deck lid of the Sprint Cup Series cars and went to a rear wing when the “Car of Tomorrow” project was unveiled in 2007. The return to the traditional look provides fans with the ability to differentiate between the four manufacturers more easily and hopefully enhance the passing ability of the cars and overall race action. Tuesday’s tire test was the first opportunity for drivers to test the package and provide feedback on its effects on the car.
“We’ve got one of the biggest spectator sports in America and they want to keep it interesting,” Biffle said. They want to keep our fans interested and they listen to the fans. They wanted double-file restarts and they did it, and a lot of fans don’t like the wing because they say it’s not traditional NASCAR. NASCAR asked us about it (the change) and we thought it would be good to put a spoiler back on the car or at least try it. I think it will be good.”
“I guess there was a part of me that was surprised (about the change), but then there was a part of me that wasn’t. I’m really proud of them (NASCAR),” Vickers said. “Last year this started with that big meeting where they (NASCAR) got everybody together and started saying ‘Hey guys, you know what, we’ve got a job to do here and that’s to provide the best racing possible and right now we feel like we can improve in some areas, so let’s all get together and put our heads together instead of bickering over what we’re going to do in the media. Let’s get together and do this right.’
“That started that meeting last year and this year talking about the spoiler they had. I was down there for the NASCAR meeting and it went really well. Last year they did the double-file restarts. You can definitely see they’re headed in the right direction. They’re headed back more toward some traditional stuff and really giving the fans what they want. That’s something the fans have seemed to want. Is it going to be a major difference for us on the track? Probably not, maybe a little better, but I think the most important part is what the fans want. That’s why they do it.”
Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford Fusion) and Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) had to wait until the afternoon session to test out the spoiler, with Busch not getting an opportunity until nearly the culmination of the session.
“I liked the way the car drove,” Biffle said. “It drove a little bit different on corner exit than the wing did. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but it may have had a little feel like the old car in some scenarios. You can tell it has some more drag because they made it a little bit bigger and wider. I’m anxious to get side-by-side with some guys and around other cars and see how it drives.”
“With the spoiler on, the car had a looser feel to it,” Busch said. “The car was turning better and it felt like the car was sliding a bit more. When you ‘A-B’ the sets of tires – like last year’s tires that we won on with the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge – and the tire that Goodyear wants to head in the general direction of, it tightened the car back up for a nice comfortable feel. And that’s what we have to do is ultimately, but together a better package for drivers to drive on the track which would create more side-by-side excitement for our fans to enjoy.”
Stewart, Busch, Biffle and Vickers will conclude the Goodyear test Wednesday, where they are scheduled to test the spoiler package once again. NASCAR will conduct another test with the spoiler March 23-24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway – another 1.5-mile oval and sister track to TMS – that will be open to all Sprint Cup teams.
“(Team owner) Jack (Roush) is all about competition,” Biffle said. “One thing for us is that it could possibly be a disruption to Hendrick’s dominance. They may not miss a beat, but when there is a change in the rules you’re going to have to find out what works. There may be a little bit in there where we can narrow that gap.”
“I think we’re stirring up the pot (with the change), but it’s in a positive direction,” Busch said. “A lot of times NASCAR throws changes our way and the drivers and owners grumble about it. With the spoiler, it seems like a positive reaction has been made already and just driving in it today, I don’t see any problem with it at all.
“I hope it creates the aesthetic view that the fans want to see with the spoiler back on the deck lid of these cars. The wings were a change for more of the four-cylinder cars that you see driving around on the streets; they weren’t our hardcore fans that drive V-8s.”
If NASCAR is pleased with the progress and performance of the spoiler, the new package could be implemented for the Samsung Mobile 500 scheduled for April 15-18 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“If you do that math, that’s a very good guesstimate on what’s going to happen, because if we test Charlotte at the end of March, the next mile-and-a-half is here at Texas in April,” Busch said.
“I think six to eight races into the season they can implement the spoiler easily,” Biffle said. “The only thing they have left to do is restrictor plates. For all theintermediate tracks(likeTexas), this car will respond fine to this spoiler or if they adjust it some.”
Following Tuesday’s test session, Stewart, Busch, Biffle and Vickers graciously volunteered their time to participate in the “Gear Up For The Green Flag” fan event in the Grand Ballroom of The Speedway Club. A full house of more than 500 season ticket holders and special guests were on hand for a dinner, giveaways and a question-and-answer session with the drivers to officially kick off the upcoming racing season.
“This was truly a special treat for our fans and the thanks goes to Tony, Kurt, Greg and Brian for making the time to be part of this event,” Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said. “We had a ton of laughs and shared some entertaining stories to make for a great evening.”
Tickets for the Samsung Mobile 500/O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 NASCAR doubleheader weekend are available by calling (817) 215-8500 or by visiting the speedway’s website at www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
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