The 2013 Sprint Cup, Brad Keselowski's spike in popularity and Kyle Busch's hot streak
A Goodyear tire test Tuesday and Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway could provide a clue as to how racy NASCARâs 2013 Sprint Cup car can be.
While the focus will be on tires at the test, NASCAR also will experiment with the car in hopes of making it easier for drivers to run closer together. One of the reasons mentioned this year for the relative lack of cautions was that it was so hard to race close together for a stretch, although Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski showed it can be done late in last weekendâs race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, said Monday that âthere are some things that we are working on that show promiseâ and could create tighter racing when the cars debut next season.
He noted that officials are experimenting with the carâs underbody, along with the front of it and the rear spoiler.
Andy Graves, Toyotaâs Cup manager, notes that when a car is alone in clean air, it has maximum downforce, thus is compressed and as close to the ground as possible. When two cars are running near each other, the trailing car loses some of that air pressure and the car rises.
âIf the car is very pitch-sensitive and very ride-height sensitive, then, unfortunately, you lose more downforce when youâre behind someone,â Graves says.
âWeâre trying to develop from the splitter, the spoiler, studying the data, looking at wind tunnel information that is more advanced than itâs ever been; weâre trying to understand and come up with some characteristics that performance stays the same whether youâre all by yourself or in traffic. That is going to help the racing.â
Pemberton said heâs confident that the new car will be better than when the current car debuted as the Car of Tomorrow in 2007.
âIt goes back to us spending more time getting the car closer developed when we hand the car off,â he says. âIt will be a far, far, better racing car to start off with and then the teams will take it to the next level.â
Brad Keselowski suggests not judging the carâs performance too early next season, though.
âThe odds are that this car is not going to come out of the gate perfect,â he says. âItâs going to take time. But much like if you unveiled a new iPhone and rolled it out and said, âIn a year weâll have it working right,â your customers probably arenât going to be happy about that. I think we all know that and are braced for it, but we know long-term that this car is going to be part of the solution for getting NASCAR as strong as it possibly can be.â
If everything goes as NASCAR hopes, Graves says the cars should be easier to drive than the current cars but says the driver ability will still matter.
âMaking cars hard to drive, thatâs not what separates talent on the race track,â he says. âItâs all the other intangibles. Itâs operating in traffic from setting someone up for the pass, itâs managing your tires, managing the race, understanding fuel mileage. Thereâs a lot of different aspects, in my opinion, rather than making the cars hard to drive and say the best driver is going to be the guy that best manages that.â
NEW FAVORITE At one point during last weekendâs race at Texas, the crowd roared when Brad Keselowski took the lead. He missed that.
âI would have liked to have heard that,â Keselowski said. âThatâs one of my biggest regrets of being a race car driver is missing out on those moments. In other sports, like football or basketball or baseball when they do something and the crowd cheers, you really feel it, (but) racing, youâve got none of that. Itâs really a big bummer because I would have loved to have heard that.â
Keselowski knows that heâs gained fans during this Chase as he battles five-time champion Jimmie Johnson for the championship.
âI think I have a lot of Jimmie-hater fans,â said Keselowski, who trails Johnson by seven points with two races to go.
âIâm not sure how I feel about it. I try really hard to engage a very informed and positive fan base. That might not be necessarily along those lines, but Iâll take every fan I can get.â
Keselowski understands why some fans feel the way they do toward Johnson.
âItâs American culture, build somebody up just so you can tear them down, whether itâs the president or sports star,â he said. âItâs just American culture. Maybe one day Iâll be so fortunate as to be torn down.â
CHARGING Although not a title contender, Kyle Busch has scored 274 points in the Chase, fifth-most among all drivers. Busch is coming off a third-place finish at Texas last weekend, his fifth top-5 finish in the Chase.
âI wish we were in the deal,â Busch said after last weekendâs race at Texas, âbut thatâs what next year is for.â
TITLE RACES With two races to go, Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse are tied for the points lead in the Nationwide Series. Austin Dillon is third, 21 points behind them.
In the Camping World Truck Series, James Buescher has a 15-point lead on Ty Dillon with Timothy Peters 25 points back and Parker Kligerman 27 points out with two races to go.
PIT STOPS NASCAR announced Tuesday that comedian Howie Mandel will host the Sprint Cup Series Awards program on Nov. 30 in Las Vegas. ... Donny Schatz won the World of Outlaws championship driving for Tony Stewartâs team. ... Kyle Larson, a development driver for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, won the K&N Pro Series East championship last weekend with a sixth-place finish in the season finale at Rockingham Speedway. ... Sundayâs Cup race marks Danica Patrickâs 10th and final one of the season. She is coming off her career-best Cup finish of 24th last weekend at Texas. ... Jimmie Johnson, victorious last weekend at Texas, has won 22 races in the Chase. Next on the list is Tony Stewart with 11 Chase victories.
by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter: @DustinLong