The Petty Racing Dodge Car of Tomorrow
Over 50 NASCAR Nextel Cup teams converged on
Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday for a two-day test in
preparation for the debut of the new Car of Tomorrow, which will
take to the track for its first race here on March 25.
Denny Hamlin set the fastest overall time of
15.706 seconds (122.170 mph) while leading two of the three
sessions in the new Chevrolet Impala CoT. Defending series
champion Jimmie Johnson, also in a Chevy, was second-fastest to
lead the evening session with a fast time of 15.727 seconds
(122.007 mph). Fellow Chevy pilot Ward Burton was third fastest
overall at 121.689 mph.
The Evernham Racing Dodge of Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne clocked in fourth fastest overall
with a top speed 121.628 mph in a Dodge Avenger. Greg Biffle was
the fastest Ford, coming in sixth quickest at 121.497 mph.
Rookie A.J. Allmendinger, who has yet to qualify
for a Nextel Cup Series event this season, was the fastest
Toyota driver with a lap of 119.895 mph, 28th quickest in the
The overall speeds were more than six miles per
hour slower than the track qualifying record of 128.709 mph, set
in 2003 by Ryan Newman.
Wednesday’s test marked the first time teams have had a chance
to put the new design through its paces on the bumpy, half-mile
oval known for its close quarter racing and sheet-metal grinding
Despite earlier grumblings and complaints from team owners and
drivers alike, most have come to accept the new car of the
future, which, in a few short weeks, will become the car of
“From a driver's perspective, once you get in the car, it's just
a car,” said driver Jeff Burton. “In my world, it's no longer
about the Car of Tomorrow; it's just about a car, trying to do
it better than everybody else. In my eyes, that's where we are.
“My car doesn't drive like a spaceship, it drives like a race
car. The Car of Tomorrow is here today. For us in particular,
we're just trying to build a database that we can start, you
know, compiling information so that when we do come back here,
when we go to Dover, other places, hopefully we can be as good
as we need to be.”
So far, the biggest challenge facing most teams has been the new
suspension on the Car of Tomorrow, which limits how far the
shocks will travel, making the car difficult to handle around
Bristol’s bumpy half-mile.
“This is a challenging race track because it has such high
banking, fast speeds, the loads are very difficult to deal
with,” said Jeff Gordon. “They are not allowing us to really
mess with the heights of the car. Now we are on these bump stops
and all these things that are new that we are learning on how we
do the suspension. We are limited on how much travel we can
have. We can't really adjust the height of the car so we are
stuck with that.”
The spring Bristol race is one of 16 races where the Car of
Tomorrow will take to the track, followed by 24 races planned
for 2008 before moving to full-time in 2009.
According to Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby though, that
schedule could be accelerated to bring the Car of Tomorrow up
to full-time for the 2008 season.
“The three-year rollout schedule was actually developed out of
what the owners felt comfortable with as far as a pace to
replace their current inventory of racecars," Darby said.
"What's come to light is that these cars are much easier to
build. They can build them much faster than the current cars
we're running. And with that fabrication process, they believe
they can shorten those timelines - especially if they don't have
to have the other program working over here.
"Whether we would expand the COT schedule for the 2007 season is
probably not likely. But could we be all-in for 2008? I think
that's very probable."
However, not everyone was so quick to agree with Darby’s idea.
"I think it is too early to commit to that,” said Gordon. “I
understand from a financial standpoint, especially because I
think there are a lot of teams that are behind because of the
schedule that we are on with building both cars, but I think
until we get through some races, it is too early.
“I think there might be a lot of changes that may need to happen
for the good. I think that is why we are running it this year so
we can get the car out there, put it in race conditions and
really through the inspection process, go through qualifying, go
through race prep, everything that it is going to take and
really evaluate this car fully.”
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