Burton's impressions of new Nationwide car
It’s easy for Jeff Burton to notice the difference in the new Nationwide car, and it’s the same thing he said when he went from the old Sprint Cup car to the new one. Burton was among the eight drivers who tested Monday the new Nationwide car at Talladega Superspeedway and got their first feel of the roomier vehicle. Like the Cup cars, the new Nationwide cars have the bigger greenhouse and are 3 inches higher than the current Nationwide car.
“If you drove an old one and got in one of these cars, these cars are so much bigger, so much more room, so much more ability to put stuff in the car to make it safer,” the Richard Childress Racing driver said. “It’s a whole other ballgame.”
The new Nationwide car is going to be used in four races next season, starting in July at Daytona and then in August at Michigan, in September at Richmond and October in Charlotte.
NASCAR spent the day with the teams testing a restrictor plate underneath the tapered spacer normally used in the Nationwide engines. The plate sizes ranged from holes 1 inch to 29/32nds of an inch. Eventually, they hope they don’t need the plates at all for the races at Daytona and Talladega. They worked with different gears as they want the RPM package to shoot for the normal 8,000 to 8,500 RPM range that teams have at any other track, Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash said.
“We tried several different configurations and they’ve got a good idea what to do with the plate,” said driver-owner Kevin Harvick, who participated in a five-car draft. “The cars drive really good. I think everybody likes the way you suck up in the pack.”
The Nationwide cars typically only use the restrictor plate at Daytona and Talladega.
“From the data we gather here today, we will go back and decide upon what we need to do, whether we need to tire test or something like that with this car on a superspeedway with more teams involved,” Balash said.
Balash also said that at the tracks using the new car, the track will open a day early so teams can test prior to the first day of official practice.
“I’m really optimistic about this car,” Burton said. “It handles like a race car. It drives good. It doesn’t do anything silly. It’s pretty good. We had a five-car pack, and it doesn’t do anything weird.
“It pulls up a little better. Pretty par for the course.”
All four manufacturers were represented with Burton, Harvick, JR Motorsports’ Kelly Bires and Phoenix Racing’s James Buescher in Chevrolets, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Colin Braun in Fords, Michael Waltrip Racing’s Trevor Bayne in a Toyota and Penske Racing’s Justin Allgaier in a Dodge.
Many of the drivers at the test have had limited experience on superspeedways.
“NASCAR has some stuff they wanted us to do and [there’s] stuff we wanted to try, but, I think, this is a pretty good car,” Stenhouse said. “Obviously, they’re gonna be safer than the older cars that we’ve been running. It’s a lot more roomier inside. I kind of feel lost in there because the older cars are a little smaller inside, but it’s really comfortable.”
Braun said he wasn’t sure when he will get back in a new car, so this test – any seat time – obviously was valuable.
“The biggest thing was in the draft, you get passed by three or four cars and you’d end up losing the draft because you didn’t have the momentum and speed to get caught back up,” Braun said. “We got that a lot better toward the end. … We know it’s the early stages [for this car] and there’s a lot left to be done with it.”
The rules package is at the printer and teams should be getting the rule book soon, Balash said.
The chassis is virtually the same as the Sprint Cup car, but the Nationwide car has different suspension with no bump stops allowed, a spoiler (with a 2-inch-by-12-inch extension on the ends) instead of a wing and the splitter configuration is different as the lower front juts forward about 2.5 inches longer than a Cup car.
“It’s nice sitting in this car, like the Cup car there is a lot of room,” Harvick said. “You feel comfortable. The same chassis [as Cup] – it’s hard to tell if it has a lot of the same characteristics until we get to some of the different style of tracks.”
Teams reported speeds of 180-185 mph in single-car runs and about 193-194 mph in the draft. SceneDaily