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BRISTOL, Tenn. – NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow gets another full-fledged workout Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway, just about one year to the day before it is expected to make its official debut.
The shakedown will mark the first time since last fall that several teams will participate in a COT test. This time it will be the Ganassi, Penske, Roush and Childress organizations.
It's been four long years of development for the new car, which essentially was designed from the ground up. Much of what we see in today's Nextel Cup car will be carried over, but many aspects of the design – especially those which have anything to do with safety – will be dramatically changed.
One item that is expected to be missing in the final version of the car will be the customary rear spoiler, which NASCAR has used for decades as part of its aerodynamic package. In its place will be a single-element rear deck wing, which was first track-tested at Daytona earlier this year.
Monday's session here at Bristol will be used to test different wing designs.
The wing will represent a dramatic change in the look of NASCAR's stock cars, but according to Brett Bodine, a former driver who now serves as NASCAR's test driver and is heavily involved in the development of the new car, the wing is more in tune with today's modern race cars as well as new showroom models.
"Take a look around the showrooms today, and you'll see that most every new car model has a wing on the back," Bodine said.
He added that using a wing will allow teams to build a more symmetrically shaped car rather than the current models, which are cut and bent to shape to permit them to run better on ovals.
According to Bodine, the wing will be a bolt-on piece that will be given to teams each race weekend by NASCAR, thus preventing any cheating. The wing will most likely include a small wickerbill/Gurney flap – a right-angle piece of metal rigidly bolted or riveted to a wing's trailing edge – which will offer an additional level of downforce or drag to be produced by the wing.
Monday's session also will test the design of the new air splitter located below the bumper on the front of the new car. The splitter is designed to keep the front of the car on the ground.
Both the wing and the splitter are items that have been used successfully for decades in sports car racing worldwide.
"We know this is a technology that is aerodynamically superior to what we have today," Bodine said.
NASCAR has yet to decide what material the new splitter will be made of, but Bodine says it will be something that will prevent the new car from being set up to "travel" like the current models.
The travel Bodine refers to is when the car is set up to lean forward when it goes into the turns, which changes the attitude of the car so that the back end is higher in the air than the front. That produces more downforce on the car and allows it to turn better, especially on those tracks that require the additional downforce.
As for the thought of the spoiler disappearing from the rear of NASCAR's stock cars? Bodine laughs and says he knows that it will shake the world of many in the garage and that there will be a lot of raised eyebrows when the new car debuts.
"It's the way of the future," he said. "It will, in the end, make our racing even better."
Restrictor plates at Charlotte?
In a separate session later this week, Goodyear will conduct a tire test to determine which compound to bring to the newly repaved 1½-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Last year, after the track was "levigated" in an attempt to smooth it out, Lowe's featured a fast but slick surface that resulted in numerous tire failures and two disastrous races. It left many drivers complaining that the track had become too fast.
Now with the new surface, questions about even higher speeds have raised the possibility of restrictor plates being used at Charlotte in an effort to slow down the cars.
"That's not the answer," a NASCAR official said, adding that everything possible would be done to avoid having to put restrictor plates on the cars.
"That's probably the last thing we want to do at Charlotte."