By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
CONCORD, N.C. -- With the notable exception of cars built specifically for restrictor-plate superspeedway racing, NASCAR's new Gen-6 race car will feature more downforce and mechanical grip than its predecessor, which debuted in 2007.
The way driver Jeff Burton sees it, that means the quality of racing will improve, almost by definition.
"My theory is based on years of experience and watching what's going on with this sport, how it's evolved," Burton said Friday before testing the new car at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We've been through this thing -- a lot of downforce, little downforce; a lot of grip, low grip; all these different tire combinations.
"At the end of the day, the better the cars are stuck in the race track, the closer the cars run to each other... Especially on big tracks, the better the grip is, the closer the action can be."
Having tested the Gen-6 car four times before coming to Charlotte, Burton is convinced that the intermediate speedway package for the new car will provide more downforce, more grip and, consequently, closer racing.
"I believe that more grip gives the drivers more opportunity to put their car in a position that they wouldn't be able to put it, if they didn't have that grip," Burton said. "That's why I think the racing is going to be better."
As far as downforce goes, the superspeedway cars, which NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers tested last week at Daytona, are different. Because of a smaller spoiler in use at plate tracks, there is less rear downforce with those cars, but that characteristic almost certainly will help eliminate the two-car push-drafting.
"To be clear, the speedway cars have less downforce," Burton explained. "So there's a lot less downforce on the Daytona/Talladega cars -- assuming they don't change the spoiler between now and then -- and there is quite a bit more downforce on every other car."
Cup drivers lost one day of testing at Charlotte because of heavy rains on Thursday. Even though Friday's session, which started late because of track drying, was extended to 7:30 p.m., several drivers would like to get more track time before the series heads to Las Vegas for the first intermediate speedway race of the season (Mar. 10).
"This is a deal where we all roll out the new cars at the same time, and everybody is trying to get a jump on the rest of the guys," said Martin Truex Jr. "If we think we need to learn more, or if we've got unanswered questions, then we'll be somewhere testing next week."
Greg Biffle agreed.
"I think a lot of it boils down to how well your car drove and then how your speed compares and how much stuff we get through (on the checklist)," Biffle said. "If the car is driving pretty good, the car has fairly good speed, and it looks like there are no major issues that we have to get figured out still, I think that there's a possibility we wouldn't test again.
"But if there's still unanswered questions or we don't have the speed or the drive-ability, I get out there and I'm like, 'I just can't drive it. It's too loose. It won't turn as the fuel burns off,' and we need to continue to test, we're going end up somewhere else."
The Charlotte session was an official NASCAR test and doesn't count against each organization's allotment of four tests at venues that host NASCAR events. Teams also have the option of testing without restriction at tracks that don't host NASCAR events, such as Nashville and Pikes Peak.
BIFFLE STILL FAST
After setting the fastest lap in single-car runs last week at Daytona, Greg Biffle showed no signs of slowing down at Charlotte.
As of 4 p.m. ET, Biffle topped the speed chart at CMS with a lap at 192.610 mph (28.036 seconds), not far off the track qualifying record of 193.708 mph (27.877 seconds) he set on Oct. 11 of last year.
Clint Bowyer (28.070 seconds) wasn't far behind Biffle at 192.376 mph. Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five as of 4 p.m.
The afternoon, however, wasn't without issues for Biffle, who scraped the wall just before 5 p.m. and brought his car back to the garage for repairs of minor damage.
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- Greg Biffle
- Jeff Burton