By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Brad Keselowski wanted to see for himself.
Having heard about some of the aerodynamic difficulties drivers encountered in early tests of the new 2013 Sprint Cup race cars on intermediate speedways, Keselowski was intrigued by the prospect of testing the car himself.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup leader was so intrigued, in fact, that he was willing to take a break from intense preparation for the final four Cup races to drive the 2013 Ford Fusion instead of his customary No. 2 Dodge.
He had his chance on Tuesday and Wednesday in a combination new car/Goodyear tire test at Phoenix International Raceway, the first test of NASCAR's 2013 models on a one-mile flat track.
Keselowski, who will drive Fords next year when Penske Racing makes a manufacturer switch, liked what he saw and felt in the new car.
"I thought it was a great test," Keselowski told the NASCAR Wire Service. "I had heard rumors that things weren't going so well with that car, so it felt good to kind of just do it on my own and see what was really going on. I thought the test went really well.
"The cars seemed to have a lot of drivability, and it's easy to work backwards from there, because certainly we have to balance that, if we make the cars too easy to drive then that's not going to be great, but they also have to be drivable. And you'd rather start with drivable and work backwards than the alternative.
"I thought the car was pretty good, and I had a great time with that test. It's certainly something I'm very encouraged by for the future in the things that I saw."
Racing in traffic was an issue for the 2013 cars that tested a week earlier on the new pavement at Kansas Speedway, but that ameliorated as the two-day sessions progressed.
"It was tough in traffic, and the car was really loose in (entering the corners), but I applaud NASCAR and all the teams for getting together and trying to say, 'OK, how can we solve this? How can we make this car the most raceable car we've ever had?'" said Brian Vickers, who tested the 2013 Toyota Camry at both Talladega and Kansas.
"By the end of a two-day test, we accomplished it. I was racing around all the guys in traffic. I was racing the 2012 cars. I felt comfortable. I felt better behind them. All in all, I thought it was a gain."
Vickers also pointed out that, at the Kansas test, the 2013 cars raced on tires intended for the current-generation race cars.
"We're still racing on 2012 tires, or tires built for the 2012 car and not for the 2013 car, so I think it's going to get better," said Vickers, who led both Cup practice sessions on Saturday in preparation for his eighth start of the season.
As an experienced sky diver, Brian Vickers could only marvel at the recent 24-mile jump of Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner.
Vickers, who drove in the Sprint Cup Series for Red Bull Racing, has more than a casual connection with Baumgartner, whose Red Bull Stratos program benefited from a collaboration with NASA. Baumgartner, who jumped from a helium balloon, set records for a parachute jump from the highest altitude and the greatest free-fall velocity (834 mph).
"I was jealous, except for when he went into that flat spin," Vickers said. "I've done some stuff with Felix. He's a great guy.
"I did a few jumps for my birthday (Oct. 24), which was a lot of fun. It went really well. I was actually going up in the plane, and I was thinking, 'Wow, this seems high.' But then I think to myself, 'I guess it's not so high anymore, after he jumped from there.'"
MAKING MORE MAGIC
From 2000 through 2006, including five full-time seasons in Sprint Cup racing (2002-2006), Ryan Newman ran 188 races with Matt Borland as his crew chief.
During Borland's tenure, the driver known as Rocket Man for his prowess in qualifying, posted 12 of 16 career victories and 37 of his 49 career poles.
Borland, vice president of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing, will also serve as Newman's full-time crew chief next season, replacing Tony Gibson, who will serve in that same capacity on Danica Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet next year.
Borland returned to Newman's car for this week's Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville and will finish the season with the No. 39 Chevrolet team. Together they hope to recreate the magic that made them so successful at Penske Racing.
"I think just attitude, probably, and work ethic," Borland said Saturday at Martinsville, when asked to describe the qualities that buoyed his pairing with Newman. "Everything was about racing, everything was about winning, and everything was about that particular moment in time being the best you can be."
Can they recapture that attitude?
"You never know," Borland said. "Obviously that's the goal. We're going to do everything we can to get back to that, but a lot of the teams, that's what they're after, so it's a challenge."