Thursday’s Las Vegas test laps pay no money and carry no points, but in terms of value, those serials could be among the most important of the early 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
They’ll give drivers, crew chiefs and engineers crucial information about where they are – and where they’ll need to be – in the continuing development of the Gen-6 Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry. The 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway, an intermediate track, is similar to layouts comprising the meat of the coming schedule.
“Without a doubt the 1.5, two-mile tracks can make your entire season. That test day is going to be huge,” said Steve Letarte, crew chief of the No. 88 driven byDale Earnhardt Jr., who finished in the top 10 in every 1.5- and two-mile race he ran in 2012. “As a crew chief, you are trying to figure out what area you should be working in.”
Rodney Childers, who oversees the No. 55 Toyota that Mark Martin put on the pole a week ago at Phoenix, agrees.
“With it being an intermediate track and a place that’s really fast, the aero part becomes the biggest thing that you fight and I think everybody in the garage needs to learn a little bit [more] about this new car and where the splitter needs to be compared to the race track,” Childers said.
Teams were able to test the Gen-6 cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway, another 1.5-mile track, earlier this year but the weather isn’t the only thing that’s changed since January.
“Since then, a lot of different parts have become available with the new, cambered rear-end housings and stuff like that, so we’re trying to maximize all the areas that we’ve been given to play in,” said Todd Parrott, crew chief for the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Aric Almirola.
“I think the challenge is just find the balance. We had that last year with all the different things we were able to do. I think getting that balance back for the driver and what he was feeling is the most challenging part.”
So far, there has been parity among series manufacturers with Chevrolet and Ford each claiming a victory. Last Sunday’s race in Phoenix found all three nameplates taking a spot in the top three.