Drivers test ’13 car, talk challenges

Kasey Kahne predicts “great racing” when the Sprint Cup teams return to Talladega Superspeedway with the new car in 2013.

Kahne was among the seven Sprint Cup teams that participated Wednesday in the NASCAR test at the 2.66-mile track, where the  manufacturers Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota concentrated on cooling packages in and out of the draft.

While drafting with Jeff Burton, Kahne said, their lap topped 204.03 mph.

“I feel like this is going to create much more excitement,” Kahne said. “Good for some, bad for others. It’s going to be way easier to wreck this car. Not in a bad way, but if you get screwed up, if one car darts in front of you, if you’re pushing the wrong corner of the car, there’s going to be a wreck.

“This car is much dicier. It moves around a lot more than the other car, and that creates great racing ’cause everyone knows it’s out there. The pushing part is not as big of a deal. It’s the runs that you could get with this car. The way that we could move around and pass cars in front of us without pushing, that’s what I liked the most about this car. Because the car we have now, I don’t think we can do that near as well as we could today.”

Throughout the design process of the new Cup models, particularly at superspeedway tracks, NASCAR did its best to discourage the tandem drafting that became all the rage several years ago. With pointed design of the bumpers, there’s a smaller surface for the drivers to connect. But Kahne said NASCAR’s focus is more on offering the drivers control in the packs.

“You can get bigger runs on the cars in front of you,” Kahne said. “There were three or four of us in line at a time and you could still get a run on the car in front of you, and that’s something we do not have right now. I like that side of it.

“Pushing was definitely different. Pushing, the way the car moved around in front of you and also the way that I felt when I was being pushed from behind. So that’s something that the shorter spoiler and the shape of the front ends of the cars – it’s not nearly as nice of a fit with the back of the car, so they move around a lot more. It will be interesting. It made for an interesting day with six cars, let alone 40, and you’re in that same area. It will cause some problems out there at times, I would say.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the current Nationwide Series champ, experienced the transition of the pony cars in his series two years ago. Although he’s competed in just three Sprint Cup races, he found the new Cup cars to have a different feel but remained “pretty racy.”

“I don’t think the seat is any lower, but the way the front windshield is slanted a little different, it has got more angle in it and is laid back some,” Stenhouse said. “The car does feel longer. It seems like it is a little bit wider. I have no idea what the dimensions are compared to the one we have now, but it just feels like that.

"With the A-Posts the way they are, there are a few more blind spots in different areas. These are things we will have to get used to. Any time you change up something, it is different at first, and you might not like it, but you adapt to it and get the feel for it. That is another reason I think it was nice being here today.”

NASCAR’s managing director of competition, John Darby, said the body styles are “obviously different.”

“It’s a brand-new model change, and that carries through beyond just the aesthetics and the appearance of the cars,” Darby said.

“The car has a completely different aero signature than the car that we’re running right now.”