Several teams were on hand in October at Talladega Superspeedway to test the Car of Tomorrow.
Not Ready Yet
As the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season wound down, 11 teams converged on Talladega Superspeedway to do a full day of extensive testing on the Car of Tomorrow. The focus was on experimenting with various restrictor plate sizes and wings, as well as seeing how the car performs in the draft.
By 2009 the Car of Tomorrow will be the standard issue vehicle in all Cup events.
“We started with a 15/16-inch plate and progressed to a 1-inch plate,” NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby says. “We actually were doing a whole matrix of plate changes, but we also know there’s a lot that sits under the plates that dictates speeds.”
There have been rumors that with the implementation of the Car of Tomorrow, restrictor plates could be phased out at the two tracks at which they are used, Talladega and Daytona.
Darby says that isn’t the case.
“The concept is eliminating specialized restrictor plate engines,” Darby says. “I don’t think the elimination of the plate is possible, but we can eliminate the specialization.”
Darby says the Talladega test allowed for some reverse engineering.
“Instead of starting with the plate first, we started with the gear rule first,” Darby says. “The key is using several different combinations until we find the sweet spot between the two.
“Once we do, it’ll help team owners because then they won’t have to worry about several different plate combinations.”
The gear rule covers the rear-gear ratio between the ring and pinion gears in the rear drive. Each week, NASCAR specifies two gear ratios, a high and low, giving teams an option of which to use.
The drivers who did the testing weren’t overly enthusiastic about the extra work – or the prototype.
“It’s been like watching paint dry,” Ford driver Greg Biffle says. “It’s costing us a tremendous amount of time and money to do this, when we could be working on getting ready for (the next race). But if you want to play this sport, this is what you have to do.
“I thought it’d be a lot different. But there are no frills or thrills. It feels the same as it did driving the Cup cars.”
The biggest complaint was speed. Since the plate/gear combo has yet to be determined, the cars are slower than what the drivers are used to.
“We were a good 5 miles per hour slower than what we ran in (Talladega’s October Nextel Cup race),” says Jamie McMurray, also a Ford pilot. “And I didn’t feel like the cars drove better. You still get loose when guys get in your rear quarterpanel. Really, I think this test is more for NASCAR than for us.”