New car tempers Keselowski's Richmond enthusiasm
Brad Keselowski is on equal ground, or ahead of the game, with all the other drivers when it comes to the new car being used in NASCAR's Nationwide Series.
He's won one of the two races in the new car, and leads the points race by 332 over Carl Edwards with nine races remaining. Kyle Busch is third in points, 551 out of first.
Still, coming back to Richmond International Raceway is ''bittersweet,'' Keselowski said, because he led 189 of 252 laps on the 0.75-mile oval in the older car here in the spring.
''We really enjoyed last spring,'' he said.
The race Friday night will be the third of four in which the teams will use the new car that will be used in all races next season. It's the first time it will be raced on a short track, and all the teams were given the chance to test all day at the track on Thursday.
All but three of the 44 teams entered took advantage of the testing opportunity, which Keselowski said was important because ''the way the other car changed from Michigan to Richmond might not necessarily be the way this car changes from Michigan to Richmond.''
After the morning session, some differences were evident.
''There's definitely a lack of grip compared to the old car,'' Paul Menard said.
Kevin Harvick thinks the racing will allow more teams to be in contention.
''It's probably going to fall off a substantial amount as we go through the race,'' he said of the car, ''and I think that's always good because you can see cars come and go.''
And, he added, you can tell them apart by manufacturers, a huge plus compared to the cars in the Sprint Cup Series, which are hard to tell apart without a manufacturer's sticker.
Now, they will likely be able to tell a Ford Mustang from a Dodge Challenger and a Toyota Camry, although the differences between a Camry and Chevrolet Impala are less obvious.
''I think it helps the manufacturer's justify their spending in the sport and I think when they're happy, everybody's happy,'' Harvick said. ''And when the fans say I can tell that that's a Dodge because it looks just like the Dodge on the showroom, those things help all of us. ... And it goes right back to the same thing: Well, the Ford is faster, or the Dodge is faster or the Chevy's faster, whatever the case may be. Fans like that.''
The cars also look better, he said, and that matters, too.
''Nobody wants to drive an ugly car,'' he said. ''When you have something that you like and the fans like and everybody seems to agree that they kind of look cool, it matters for sure, just for the fact that if nobody likes looking at them, it's hard to watch them.''
Keselowski was third in practice in the morning, behind Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.
The session also was key looking ahead, Menard said, since Richmond is unlike Daytona and Michigan, site of the first two tests, and Charlotte, the site of the final one next month.
''This is totally different than Michigan, so we're going to learn a lot today and apply that toward ... next year in Phoenix and Bristol and places like that,'' Menard said.
He was 20th in speed in the morning.