"COT" Roll Out Complete By 2008?

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BRISTOL, Tenn. - NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director John Darby suggested the governing body would be okay with the Car of Tomorrow being used at all tracks by 2008, that's if the garage agrees with the change.

Answering questions during today's first full field test of the new car design at Bristol Motor Speedway, Darby admitted that having two rulebooks and two different inspection procedures is a "pain in the butt."

That led to the eventual question - could we see the "COT" in full force by 2008?

"If the garage says, 'we're all in,' we're all in," Darby said. "The garage will be the driving factor in that decision."

Currently, the COT is scheduled to be used in 16 races in 2007, 26 races in 2008, and the full schedule by 2009.

However, teams are finding that they can build the new cars much faster than the car currently in use, leaving many to ask if they can run the entire season using the "COT."

That doesn’t mean that all teams are on board with the plan though.

"I just think it’s too early to commit to that," said four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon, who is also listed as owner on the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson. "I really think there might be a lot of changes that may need to happen, for the good. I think that’s why we are running it this year, so that we can get the car out there, put it in race conditions and really go through the inspection process, go through qualifying, go through race prep – everything that its going to take and really evaluate this car fully. We’ve gotten it to this point, now the next step is to put it in a race."

Along with this year’s schedule of races, Gordon wants to see how the car will handle the superspeedway races – Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway – along with the road courses before he considers the full time use of the "COT."

"I am curious to know which teams feel good about it. I think the teams that feel good about it are the ones that are probably not winning right now because they think this car is going to bring them into a box that is going to keep costs down and also maybe get the competition a little bit closer," said Gordon. "I think they are going to be surprised at how much more engineering you are going to need with this car."

Despite objections from Gordon and like-minded people, it appears that a full roll out of the car by 2008 is a definite possibility. Nonetheless, NASCAR is "not likely" to add any more "COT" races to this year's schedule in order to accelerate the transition.

"As time goes on, the volume of those cries will get turned up louder, louder and louder," Darby said about calls to push up the full-release date of the car. "A lot of what’s happening is that it’s settling in to all the competitors that ‘this is the future, this is the car. Why are we going to wait for three years?’ I really don’t expect that we will."

While unanimous consent isn’t particularly necessary from every team in the garage, they are not the only ones who would have to give a complete roll out a green light. Parts vendors are another major group that the governing body would need an okay from in order to go ahead in 2008.

"What we can’t have happen is four teams in the garage have something not available to them to proceed," said Darby.

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