CoT=Follow the leader?

Jay Hart
Yahoo! Sports

LAS VEGAS – The winds that blew mightily on Monday died down, but the speeds remained relatively tight during the second day of testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Once again, most of the field ran within about a half-second of each other, which is telling at a 1.5-mile oval, where things tend to get at least somewhat spread out.

But apparently that won't be the case with the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow.

"I thought of Bristol, how close Bristol speeds are in practice and qualifying," Kasey Kahne said. "It seems like this is going to be similar. I think there's going to be a lot of cars that are very similar."

Which is exactly what NASCAR intended to do with the CoT.

While Carl Edwards led the way in Tuesday's morning session, the Toyotas once again proved strong, clocking six of the 11 fastest laps. This isn't surprising to Jimmie Johnson, considering two of those Toyotas were Kyle Busch (third) and Tony Stewart (fifth), who are part of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable.

Speaking about the impact the CoT has on the competition, Johnson said, "Manufacturers don't have the flexibility to show what they can engineer, build and bring to the track. Everything is common and the same.

"With that in mind, I think you have to unfortunately rule out some of the manufacturer influence and think of the race team. We know Gibbs is strong."

Right now, the more accomplished teams will find quicker success as the CoT rolls into its first full season of use in the Sprint Cup series. But because the teams are "boxed in" with what they can do to pick up extra speed, Johnson predicts that the gap will narrow to a point where some of the smaller teams will become more competitive.

"The top isn't going to get as far away," he explained. "That's by design from NASCAR. It's serving its purpose."

To see how it's working, all one needs to do is look at the speed charts at Las Vegas. In Tuesday's morning session, the differential between Edwards and Martin Truex Jr., who clocked the 43rd-fastest lap, was a tick over a half second. The same was true Monday when the differential between first and 43rd was about six-tenths of a second.

This is sure to strike a negative chord for those who fear that NASCAR is barreling down a road where one day it will be just like the IROC series, where all the cars are the same.

Despite the handcuffs the new car has put on an individual team's creativity, Johnson says the product on the track will remain strong.

"We still end up with the same race," he explained. "Martinsville was still an awesome race. Dover was the same. Talladega was awesome. You get back to that same thing. It's still a race car on that track, and we're still seeing that same stuff here."

That's one way to look at it. The other is that whenever the CoT was on the track, there were very few green-flag lead changes. In fact, in the second-to-last race of the season at Phoenix, there's was only one green-flag lead change the entire race – on Lap 289 of 312.

Yes, the action will be closer, but will the cars be so similar one can't pass the other?

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