By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
DOVER, Del. -- For the first time since 2008, NASCAR will allow Sprint Cup organizations to test independently at tracks that host events in NASCAR's top three touring series.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition said Saturday at Dover International Speedway that each Cup organization -- regardless of how many cars it fields -- will be allowed four tests of its choosing at NASCAR tracks.
"It's up to them to pick where they want to go," Pemberton said. "We feel like it's time to open that up and allow the teams to manage their testing and get back on facilities that host our events. You'll see that as the year unfolds, that teams will be moving around the countryside."
In November 2008, as a cost-saving measure, NASCAR placed a ban on testing at tracks that host races in the top three series. That didn't prevent teams from doing independent testing at other non-NASCAR tracks.
The relaxed testing policy coincides with the introduction of a new-generation Cup car for 2013. NASCAR will conduct a test for the new cars -- Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry -- Wednesday at Talladega Superspeedway.
According to Pemberton, the majority of that test will involve the performance of the cars in the draft.
"When we go to Talladega, we're going to concentrate on the cooling package, the drafting package," Pemberton said. "The handling is really the least of the issues down there. ... It's about working on the drafting package for Talladega -- and Daytona."
The four tests allocated to each organization next year are in addition to the Preseason Thunder test to be conducted by NASCAR during the second week of January.
Cup teams also will test at Texas Motor Speedway, newly repaved Kansas Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway this year. Those tests are scheduled Goodyear tire tests, but each organization also will be allowed to bring and gather data on one 2013 car in preparation for the car's full-time debut next year.
"Teams are invited to go help us with the tire test," Pemberton said, "because we are developing this car and tires at the same time."
SOURCE OF CONCERN
Jimmie Johnson says you can throw out a driver's long-term record at a race track when assessing prospects for an upcoming race.
Johnson's short-term record at Dover International Speedway, however, should be sufficient to scare most of his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rivals.
"I think we all look at other drivers and where they excel," Johnson said Friday at Dover, site of Sunday's AAA 400. "You know that you're going to have to deal with that team and driver, and last week was a good example of it.
"We all knew going in, based on the spring race, that Denny (Hamlin) was going to be the car to beat at New Hampshire, and they did that (won the race). So, we all look through stats, and I'm not sure that a long history plays into things, but certainly a spring race is one that you pay attention to."
So you can forget that Johnson has won four of the last seven events at Dover. Just remember that he won the June 3 event this year in dominating fashion, leading 289 of 400 laps and beating Kevin Harvick to the finish line by 2.550 seconds.
Johnson comes to Dover with a one-point lead over Brad Keselowski and is likely to expand that advantage. The five-time champion appears unconcerned that the Chase leader after the fall Dover races has never gone on to win the Cup title.
"I think the point in that it that it's a long season, and a lot can happen," Johnson said. "But you want every point you can get and leading now is a great position to be in. I think any champion of the Chase would take leading out of Dover."
CUP CREW CHIEF FOR DANICA PATRICK
Tony Gibson, crew chief for Ryan Newman, is expected to move to Danica Patrick's No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet next season, along with the rest of Newman's No. 39 crew, when Patrick goes full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.
"I'm looking at all the options right now," said Greg Zipadelli, director of competition for Stewart-Haas and crew chief for Patrick's limited Cup schedule this season. "In the next week or two, we'll make some decisions and let it go from there."
The anticipated move will pair Patrick with a crew that has worked with a high-profile driver in the past, notably Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Dale Earnhardt Inc.
"They're a good group," Zipadelli said. "They work well together -- good, bad. ... They've worked with a lot of different drivers. I've got a lot of respect for Gibson. His glass is always half full. He's always upbeat. He loves what he does.
"Right now, that's kind of how I'm looking at it. It's easier to do that than to bring somebody else in that we don't know as well as we know him and his disposition and his attitude. I think he'd add an awful lot to her and that program."
Zipadelli also said he has candidates in mind to replace Gibson on Newman's car.
"We're talking to a few of those guys right now -- nobody we can talk about, but yeah," Zipadelli said. "Not yet, but maybe next week...
"We've either got to pick that program up, or it's going to blow up, you know what I mean. We're trying to look at what's best for everything. Right now we haven't made decisions on everything we're doing yet, but I'm trying to get all the pieces to fall together pretty quick, so we can move on."