Here’s what NASCAR’s working on

NASCAR will offer a competition update Friday.

Several topics are expected to be discussed, including the new nose (front fascia) on the Sprint Cup Series cars, the new fuel filler in NASCAR’s top three racing divisions, the 2013 Cup car redesign and the rules for the Nationwide Series championship.

Hopefully, three unresolved topics — fuel injection, Sprint Cup director John Darby’s replacement and the parameters for NASCAR’s rookie contest — will be tackled as well.

Here’s a preview of what’s to come this afternoon:


A new look


The new nose was a peace offering to manufacturers to give the cars more brand identity without dramatically changing the aerodynamics. With Dodge introducing the new Charger this year, Penske Racing was allowed to adapt the upper and lower fascia (front end) of its cars.

While some teams experienced cooling issues with the new nose, with engine temperatures rising about 15 degrees, the change hasn’t affected the feel of the car.

“We’ve done a little bit of downforce testing and short-track testing with it and I don’t think it’s a huge difference from what we had,” Martin Truex Jr. said. “I think the playing field will be a little bit more level, the way the noses are mounted (and) the structure that holds the nose on the car at the height it’s supposed to be.

“I think it’ll be a little bit more even across the board. Other than that, I think it’s fairly similar. It just looks a whole lot better, which is good.”


Fill it up


The phrase “at the pumps” takes on a whole new meaning this year. Sunoco’s E15 fuel, manufactured in Marcushook, Pa., will be distributed directly from tankers through four pumps in a makeshift service area at each track this season.

During testing, teams carried five-gallon fuel cans by wagons to and from the garage. Under competition, teams will use 12-gallon cans. Each device includes a closed-loop system to prevent additional fuel and vapors from leaking into the atmosphere as well as preventing moisture from entering the fuel.

“With the alcohol in the fuel, it’s important that we keep the fuel as close-looped as we can all the way from the refinery where the fuel is made to the car,” said Mark Borosky, Sunoco’s technical manager, retail engineering and construction. “We have a closed-loop system where we fill our transports, to the nozzle and the fuel cans and the cars.

“Part of that reason is so we can maintain the quality of the fuel by not allowing it to be exposed to any atmospheric moisture. We’re also capturing the vapors from the fuel throughout the entire process while we’re filling at the fuel system and on pit road.”

Sunoco will supply the E15 fuel at all Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events in 2011. It will be delivered by tanker or rail car depending on the distance of the location.

While the fuel mileage is less than the previous racing fuel, Borosky says the overall response from the teams has been “very positive.”

“We’ve been able to fill the cans with the new fittings successfully, as well as cars very efficiently and without time delays,” Borosky added.

However, the new spill-proof fuel cans will jump from 85 pounds to just under 100 pounds — a challenge for even the most robust gasmen.


Back to basics


The sanctioning body took the concerns of the fan base to heart. If you never embraced the Car of Tomorrow, the 2013 Sprint Cup model will more closely resemble a “real” stock car.

Each of the manufacturers submitted rough drafts of new cars in November and met with NASCAR on Tuesday to discuss the four proposals.

Dodge Motorsports engineering manager Howard Comstock says there’s been “extensive design work” on the new cars to give the manufacturers more identity.

“We’ve already done several iterations of the 2013 car in our CAD systems,” Comstock said. “We’ve done computational fluid dynamics (CFD). When we get the design done in the computer, then we can go right into the CFD with the design and look at the downforce and drag numbers.

“With the 2013 car, one of the things NASCAR wanted to keep was the basic downforce and drag numbers that the 2011 car makes. So, we’re trying to work toward that end by putting more identity in the cars and shifting the body forward. Cars on the street have a longer nose and a shorter tail then these race cars. There has to be more work on the front end, more work on the tail, more work on the sides, more work on the windows.”

Utilizing computers, models and wind tunnels, the design process will be streamlined considerably compared to past projects.


Will they or won’t they?

When NASCAR released the 2011 license form for drivers, it featured a section where competitors would select a single series to make a title run.

Although the conclusion was drawn that current Nationwide Series champ Brad Keselowski and 2007 champ Carl Edwards would not be eligible to earn driver points and contend for the title in that series, as of Thursday afternoon there was no concrete decision by the sanctioning body, according to several sources at Daytona.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Edwards said it would “be great” if he and Keselowski could rumble one last time.

“We’re going to run for the Cup championship,” Edwards said. “I mean, that’s the check mark I put in there. But I’m still going to start — we’re going to start on our 60 (Nationwide) team running for the championship and I’m going to run every race. We’re going to start that way, see how it goes and we still have the owner’s championship to go for and that’s fun. That’s what makes the Nationwide Series fun.

“I would really love to be able to have another championship battle with Brad, especially him because of how well he raced last year. It would be great to go out and try to race him again for it.”

It appears that Nationwide Insurance, sponsor of NASCAR’s feeder series, supports the inclusion of Keselowski and Edwards for the championship hunt. Track promoters seemed to share the sentiment. Whether or not the sanctioning body grandfathers the two drivers in should be public knowledge by noon Eastern time today.