Teams Test for 2014 at Charlotte
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on December 11, 2013 | 7:00 P.M. EST
NASCAR conducted three 30-laps mock races, a 20-lap mock race and a 15-lap mock race on the chilly day to see how the cars adopted to the changes. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
What fans saw didn’t seem that different from what they have seen on 1.5-mile tracks. The field strung out after a few laps. It remained challenging to pass for the lead.
NASCAR conducted three 30-laps mock races, a 20-lap mock race and a 15-lap mock race on the chilly day to see how the cars adopted to the changes. The test, which included 30 teams, will help series officials set the rules for next season. Those rules should be in place by next week. The media were not allowed in the infield for the final three races.
There were two lead changes in more than 100 laps run Wednesday. One lead change came on the start of a mock race. Track position remained pivotal.
Kevin Harvick won three of the races and Kyle Larson two, giving Chevrolet a sweep of the day’s events.
NASCAR had teams race with no ride-height requirement, side skirts set at a minimum 4-inch ground clearance, various-sized rear spoilers, and a tapered spacer to cut about 100 horsepower to 750. NASCAR also had teams use a roof strip in a couple of the mock races.
NASCAR started the day by requiring teams to have a 9-inch tall spoiler, reduced it to 8.375 inches and then to 7.75 inches for final two mock races (35 laps total). The spoiler was 7.25 inches tall this past season. Indications were that drivers seemed to like the 7.75-inch spoiler better.
NASCAR planned to monitor a driver’s ability to pass, the difference in times between first place and fifth place and the difference in the 10 fastest laps during Wednesday’s session. There were instances where the times between the leader and fifth were closer but not always.
There also were a few cases of drivers running side-by-side for a couple of laps.
Earnhardt and Ryan Newman did so in one race. Aric Almirola and Newman battled in the final session.
In one of the mock races that Larson won, he pulled out to half-starightaway lead but saw Earnhardt close as they ran in traffic. Larson then pulled away in the final few laps. After the race, Larson said on his radio that he lost his rhythm for a few laps, leading to the question of if the changes helped Earnhardt close or it was just a matter of Larson not finding the right line as he ran in traffic.
Such are the questions, Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president, and series officials will have to decipher. He said NASCAR will consider several factors when setting the next year’s rules after this test.
“If the data says this, there's somebody that says something totally different, we scratch our head, see what other people said,’’ Stefanyshyn said. “You kind of balance it all.
“It's not a perfect science, but we try to take all those inputs and utilize them ... to find the right answer. You will never get 100 percent agreement on everything. So really you're kind of looking for the 70 percent answer here that kind of leads you in the right direction.’’
No other tests are scheduled to set the rules for next season. NASCAR’s next test will be next month at Daytona International Speedway. Sprint Cup teams test there Jan. 9-10. Nationwide teams test Jan. 11-12. Camping World Truck Series teams test Jan. 13-14.