NASCAR Grades Car Of Tomorrow

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MARTINSVILLLE, Va. - When it came time Friday for NASCAR series director John Darby to review the Car of Tomorrow’s opening performance last Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, there were no bells, no whistles and no singing the COT’s praises.

What Darby did do was give the COT an honest, solid critique.

“If I were going to grade it, I’d give it a solid B,” Darby said during a press conference at Martinsville Speedway. “That’s based on overall performance. There were certain aspects of the whole weekend in which it would receive a higher grade, and some a lower. On the operations side, I’d give it a C-plus, with the garage operations, inspection process and everything else. However, overall, we’re happy with the way it responded. Again, I’d give it a solid B.”

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, was a bit more generous than Darby, but reserved as well.

“I would have to give it an A-minus,” Pemberton said. “You have to take into consideration where we were because Bristol historically has great races anyway. To see the different mix of competitors up there, to see the closeness of the field in qualifying, I would have to say that’s a fair grade. The minus is there because of potentially a couple of problems with parts and pieces, whether it’s tailpipes or things of that nature. But, that’s where we’ll put it.”

Following last Sunday’s race at Bristol, some teams complained of exhaust system failure, splitters perhaps flattening left rear tires and problems with springs.

“There was certainly a list of concerns we’ve looked at, and the exhaust failure was the first thing we went to work on because there are so many things that surround a failed exhaust system,” Darby said. “It’s additional heat that goes into the cockpit, and there’s the possibility of carbon monoxide entering the cockpit. If the heat from a failed exhaust system is very closed captioned, then it has the potential to affect other components like springs, shocks, doors and things like that.”

As for the competition side, Darby said he didn’t think NASCAR would be able to get a good gauge on the COT until the NEXTEL Cup Series visits Darlington Raceway in May.

Exhaust Problems: Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin were two drivers who believe they were affected by the exhaust system failure in their cars at Bristol. Hamlin said he experienced headaches all weekend and nausea interrupted his regular workout routine on Monday.

Kenseth said he had "major problems" with the exhaust fumes he breathed during the 500-lap race at Bristol.

"I shouldn't say this becauses I'm not really sure about it, but I think there are two different foams for the doors and I think ours was toxic," Kenseth said. "I have actually not been feeling very good this week. Certainly anything that's burning inside the car that you have to breathe these days with all the chemicals and stuff out there is a big concern."

Reverse Psychology: Now that the NEXTEL Cup Series will have two consecutive races with the Car of Tomorrow under its belt, Denny Hamlin said it will be a challenge for teams to go back to the series' regular car for the April 8 Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"We've put so much work and effort into this car, it's going to be strange to go back to the other one," Hamlin said. "It's difficult to switch back and forth like that, but that's something we're going to have to deal with all year long."After Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the next Car of Tomorrow race is at Phoenix International Raceway April 21.

Petty's Two Hats: As a competitor, Kyle Petty said Friday he would like to see NASCAR implement a rule that would put the top 43 qualifiers on any given weekend into a NEXTEL Cup Series race. It’s something he’s very adamant about as a driver.

As a team owner, however, his attitude is very different.

”For the show, it should be the 43 best teams, no question,” Petty said. “When you come to the track, you should have to earn your way into the show and be one of the 43 fastest teams. There should not be a welfare system in sports. Competition is the most important part of sports.

“As a team owner, however, it’s a totally different sent of rules. If I look at this as a business, I don’t call it welfare. I call it sweat equity. Petty Enterprises has been around this business for 60 years. The Wood Brothers have been around for 50, and we deserve something back for those years. There’s a pecking order here, and that’s the way it should be. There’s a different standard here.”

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