Before the rear spoiler makes its return to the Cup Series this weekend in Martinsville, the majority of teams spent the last two days testing the newest change to the CoT at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. And when all was said and done, the consensus appears to be that the return of the spoiler has offered few, if any, surprises to the feel and handling of the car.
“It was good to know and put out of my mind that the spoiler was going to make a drastic difference in the way that the car drove,” said Kevin Harvick. “That is not the case. The car has a lot of grip with the tire combination and the spoiler, so it drives really good.”
But will better grip mean better racing? The common response among drivers Wednesday is that remains to be seen, especially if the spoiler’s producing some of the same characteristics as the earlier version of the often ill-handling CoT.
“I think the good thing is that there’s nothing large or big jumping out at us saying the spoiler is a lot different,” said Jimmie Johnson. “We’ve just been kind of working on our racecar and working as if this was just a normal test, and there was no change at the back of the car with a wing versus a spoiler.”
With over 40 teams present at the track, some figured there would be large packs of cars running together. NASCAR opted to return to the rear spoiler in the hopes of improving the action on the track, and many hoped this final test session would showcase some of that change. In fact, as I was leaving the track on Wednesday I was stopped by a fan going to watch the free test that expected to see just that.
But for the most part, side-by-side conditions simply did not happen. Since the transition to the spoiler offered teams few surprises, most went to work testing other aspects of the car.
“That throws in another dimension and set of variables that you can’t really control,” Carl Edwards pointed out. “To go run in a pack, there’s a lot of variables going on there with the air, so you might get a little experience, but you most likely wasted a run because you can’t tell if what you did was helping you or if it was the air helping you… when you’re testing, you need to keep the variables you can control under control.”
While the spoiler will be used starting in Martinsville, the biggest test will come at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway on April 18. Unlike Martinsville or Phoenix – which will be the second time the spoiler will be used – the race at Texas will provide conditions teams attempted to simulate during the two-day test conducted in Charlotte this week.
“As far as the racing is going to go, I think there is really no way to tell,” said Harvick. “I think the first real answer to that will be at Texas and I think the biggest variable we have in our sport is still the tires.”
That is one of the reasons this week’s test in Charlotte was so beneficial. Teams were able to put the new rear spoiler to the test with a tire combination Goodyear plans to bring back Lowe’s in May.
“The biggest thing is just having time on a big intermediate track that we race on with the right tires,” crew chief Rodney Childers confirmed. “It’s pretty important, because you don’t get one very often unless it’s a tire test. It ends up helping the whole company out a good bit.”
Overall, the fastest lap of the two-day test went to Burton. The three-time Charlotte winner posted the fast lap of 28.539 seconds at 189.215 mph during the morning session on Wednesday. That’s a faster lap than Ryan Newman’s pole-winning speed for last year’s Coca-Cola 600.