Blowin In The Wind

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Shortly after being shocked by the impressive showing of the Dodge Intrepids in qualifying for the Daytona 500, NASCAR ordered a wind tunnel trip for the four Winston Cup Series manufacturers in order to find out the true aerodynamic numbers for the upcoming season.

Following the Budweiser Shootout on Sunday afternoon, NASCAR confiscated the race-winning Pontiac of Tony Stewart, the Chevrolet of runner-up Dale Earnhardt, the Ford of Rusty Wallace and the Dodge of Bill Elliott. The cars were taken to a wind tunnel in Marietta, Ga. by NASCAR to ease tensions they’d let Dodge get away with too good a body style in their return to Winston Cup competition.

"I’m sure NASCAR is wanting to make sure they didn’t get the wool pulled over their eyes, and I’m glad they’re doing it," said Stewart crew chief Greg Zipadelli. "I hope they actually do it again after the Daytona 500. I feel like that’s fair because nobody raced their best cars in the Shootout."

Don’t take Zipadelli’s comments too lightly, because he admitted the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Stewart drove to victory Sunday was "six or seven year’s old."

It doesn’t take a brain scientist to figure out NASCAR’s reasoning for taking the four cars to the wind tunnel was based on how the Dodge teams tested slowly in January practice at Daytona, only to come out in Saturday’s qualifying and have the Intrepids off Elliott and Stacy Compton seal up the front row.

"We’ve done this for several years now, taking what we feel like is the best make of car in a race to the wind tunnel to compare one against the other and see what they do aerodynamically," said Winston Cup Series director Gary Nelson. "The results of this test doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to make a rules change, because the race track is our best indication of how all the different manufactures stack up against each other."

Elliott team owner Ray Evernham wasn’t in the best of spirits when asked if he thought the trip to the wind tunnel was prompted by the miraculous gain in speed from testing to qualifying.

"Whatever, I don’t know," Evernham said. "I’m just trying to work on the things we need to work on. I don’t even think it has anything to do with Dodge, I feel like it’s a battle between the Fords and Chevrolets. We just happen to be new so they’re taking us too. NASCAR knows what the numbers are on the Dodge. They are the ones who are battling, we’re too busy just trying to get running and we’ve got an awful lot left to do."

Rusty Wallace’s crew chief, Robin Pemberton, thinks NASCAR’s decision to take one of his team’s cars to the wind tunnel is a step in the right direction.

"NASCAR is doing their best to even everything out for the rest of the year, and doing it early on," Pemberton said. "The biggest race we have all year is coming up in seven days and there will be more people watching than ever before, so if there are concerns or questions, NASCAR is doing a good job of answering them early. Every team wants to have the best car and it’s probably impossible to make them all even."

Pemberton expects to hear the results of the wind tunnel test Tuesday morning, though NASCAR doesn’t make that information available to the media.

Does he expect to see a late change of the rules before Thursday’s 125-mile qualifying races?

"We’ll just have to wait and see," Pemberton answered. "We hope we might get some concessions, but all in all the Shootout was pretty good even though it was hard for us to pull out and make a pass. From a Ford standpoint, we felt like some of the other manufacturers could pull out and make those types of passes. We could get down on the inside of them, but we couldn’t clear the car."

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