FORT WORTH, Texas -- So far, so good.
"We feel like the test is going well for the teams, and I think we're off to a pretty good start for the year for the package that we have, and it seems to me that the teams are pretty happy with what they've been handed off to start with,'' Pemberton said.
A full field -- 43 cars -- participated in Thursday's "free test"; an important chance for teams to use data collection on a key 1.5-mile track. Some used it as actual practice for Saturday night's 500-miler here, others treated it like a true test, gathering information for the other 1.5-milers that dominate the NASCAR schedule and are so crucial to the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"We brought a test car today, not our race car,'' said reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski, "We are going to work on different concepts today and tune in our race car tomorrow.''
Greg Biffle's Ford had the fastest lap in Thursday's opening session, but despite expectations for possible record speeds, his mark of 192.864 mph was well off the qualifying record of 196.235 mph set by Brian Vickers in 2006.
It was quicker than the pole-winning speeds of the previous two races here, however. The top six cars Thursday were faster than Jimmie Johnson's pole-winning lap of 191.076 mph here last October.
Pemberton stressed this test and this track have been significant in the development of the Gen-6 car and called a test of the un-raced car at TMS last fall a "pivotal moment" -- especially key to deciding the final package teams were given for its first full season of competition. He expects both Thursday's test session and Saturday's race to provide important feedback for the car's progression as well.
"This was one of the tracks that we had the opportunity to go with Goodyear with a number of different tire combinations,'' Pemberton said of the test last October. "And we were able to put cars on the track with different groups and run with low downforce, high downforce, and some different tire setups.
"And with the guys that we had here (last fall), Greg Biffle was one, I think Paul Menard was here, Kyle Busch, Juan (Pablo) Montoya and a few others, but they worked really hard at helping us develop the package, and it was a result of the test that those people help us put on here in the fall.
"It was important for us, and it really set the stage for what we have for 2013.''
In fact, Pemberton is so satisfied with the performance of the Gen-6 car through the season's first six races (all three makes ? Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota have won and five different drivers) that he didn't anticipate making any changes to the car.
"I think we're in a fairly good spot,'' Pemberton said. "One of the things we've learned over the years is if you keep moving the targets. ?it's harder for them to keep chasing that. We feel like the playing field is fairly level. It looks like everybody has an equal opportunity to compete, and we don't feel like that the teams are done developing their own packages for this car.''
Contrary to reports that drivers have campaigned for changes to the rear spoilers, Pemberton says not a single driver has come to him and asked for a smaller spoiler or to remove it.
And, he said, the cars participating in a Goodyear tire test at Daytona International Speedway next week will have the same package as when they ran the season-opening Daytona 500.
"When we're at this point, it's important now that we've handed the car off to the teams for the teams to go in and do their development,'' Pemberton said. "They're the experts. We can just ?? we can only take it so far.
"The difference with this go?around with the new car than any time in the past is it was so much buy?in all along. I mean, we've tested this car for over two years before we hit a points race. ''
The result has been a positive experience right out of the box.
"The problem I have is I like racing wherever it is in the field, and I honestly think we've had some of the best racing we've had in a decade,'' Pemberton said.
"It was an opportunity for us to start over in many ways, shapes or forms because we had everyone working together, so everyone started at a higher level when we handed this car off, very different than what we've done in the last decade."
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-- Robin Pemberton
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