NASCAR

Daytona workouts are 2013 pop quiz

Penske, which is switching to Ford, has extra homework

The Charlotte ObserverJanuary 4, 2013 

  • TESTING THE WATERS NASCAR Cup teams have several scheduled tests planned prior to the Feb. 16 Daytona Shootout, the unofficial start of the 2013 season.   Location Dates Daytona Jan. 10-12 Charlotte 17-18 Las Vegas 28-29

— How well will these much-lauded, new-look Sprint Cup Series cars perform on the track this season?

In the next few weeks, NASCAR teams are going to get a good idea.

A three-day test in preparation for this season’s Daytona 500 gets underway Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. It is likely to be the first test of 2013 cars that includes almost every team that plans to run fulltime.

The sheer number of cars should provide a glimpse at how teams stack up against each other, even if — as teams do almost every year — they don’t show everything they have during the test.

The maximum number of teams to show for a test of 2013 Cup cars was 14 during a two-day test at Charlotte Motor Speedway in early December.

Many individual teams have conducted their own test sessions at various tracks to work on their 2013 cars.

Penske Racing — home to reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski — recently had driver Sam Hornish Jr. test at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

All three manufacturers have cars that look much more like their production models. But Penske switched in the offseason from Dodge to Ford, making its transition more involved than others.

Penske’s work at Talladega was for the benefit of all Ford drivers, not just for Keselowski and new teammate Joey Logano.

Individual brand identity among manufacturers was a key element toward developing the new car, but questions about components such as the cooling system on superspeedways was one of the main reasons for having the Talladega test.

“It’s been a challenge to get all the correct features in the car within the design parameters and still having the car competitive,” Ford Racing aerodynamicist Bernie Marcus said.

“At the end of the day you can have the best-looking car, but if it doesn’t work on the track, that’s not going to be good so we have to have both. We have to have the looks and the performance.”

Race fans and drivers and their teams have eagerly awaited the chance to see the 2013 cars compete on the track.

NASCAR’s goal is to find the right balance that will allow cars to remain competitive and put on a good show for the fans.

As is always the case, the focus for teams remains on the continuous quest for speed.

“There’s been cooperation to get to the end goal of making the cars look the same on the race track,” said Pat DiMarco, Ford Racing NASCAR program manager.

“We’ve done that over the past few months and now we’re working toward our goal of winning the Daytona 500.”

In addition to several testing sessions prior to teams’ arrival in Daytona Beach, Fla., next month, NASCAR plans to alter the race weekend schedule at tracks such as Las Vegas and Texas to add additional days for testing. The schedule at Auto Club Speedway will be adjusted to allow for more practice time.

“When we hand this car off to the teams, it will be in the best shape we’ve ever handed a car off to the teams to start a new season,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition.

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