Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport’s 10-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver, ran his first laps in the new sixth-generation race car. His review of the 2013 Chevrolet SS? It’s a must see.
“The car has really awesome potential,” Earnhardt said during testing Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “The cars that you see in the garage; you’ll stand there and see Fords and Toyotas and Chevrolets driving by. It’s great because everything looks different, everything is instantly recognizable.”
On Tuesday, December 11 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 16 cars participated in the last open test session of the year. Fans and media were treated to all three manufacturers on the race track at once, including the fully unveiled Chevrolet SS which was debuted in Las Vegas during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week. There was an air of excitement from the drivers and teams in the garage surrounding the looks and performance of the sixth generation car.
“All in all the feedback in the garage area has been very positive,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “It looks to me that all the hard work from the teams, manufacturers and our engineers at the R&D Center is going to pay off. Like I said last month when we hand this car off to the teams, it will be in the best shape that we have ever handed a car off to the teams to start a new season.”
While fans were seeing the Chevrolet fully unwrapped without camouflage, several drivers were getting used to new fire suits, car manufacturers and teammates. For the first time in his career, former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Matt Kenseth was sporting a new number (20), team (Joe Gibbs Racing) and manufacturer (Toyota). Kenseth was happy with the car; however, his team was forced to make an engine change during today’s morning session.
“I’ve been kind of nervous but (about) coming into this morning and walking to a different truck and a different team and all of that stuff,” Kenseth said. “My last run I proceeded to go from second gear to first gear and over-revved the engine so they’re back there changing it. So, I think the guys are in love with me right now. Like, ‘Where did we find this clown? Give us the other one back.’ Other than that it’s been good.”
While Kenseth got to know his new team, current NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski learned to work with new Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano.
“I feel like there are a lot of areas that I can improve and be better,” said Keselowski. “I think there are things Joey does right out of the gate that are better than what I do. I think he has the ability to unload at a place like this and just instantly be fast and that’s not my style.”
In addition to the off season testing sessions scheduled next month for Daytona and Charlotte, plans call for an extra day of testing before the events at Las Vegas and Texas to provide teams with an opportunity to learn more about the sixth-generation race car early in the season. Extra practice time will also be added to the schedule at Auto Club Speedway in March.
On Day 1 of the final 2012 test for the new sixth-generation race car, the drivers had their say as they turned laps around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. On Wednesday, December 12, it was the crew chiefs’ turn. Enthusiasm for the design and performance of the new car extends beyond just the drivers.
“This car is the perfect example of technology helping our sport,” said Steve Letarte, crew chief of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet. “I think we now have three makes out here that my little boy at nine-years old can tell the difference between. I think that is the goal – that anybody can walk through the parking lot and see a Chevy, a Ford and a Toyota and know that they are different. That’s really what it comes down to – if you’re into racing you want to watch cool cars go around the track. I think the simple fact is in 2013 we have cooler cars.”
The look of the new sixth-generation car has been a hit and so has the performance of the new car. Drivers experienced speeds on Tuesday that have the potential to break the current qualifying record at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as the speed chart topped the 193-mile-per-hour range.
“It felt fast and I knew where my throttle was, so I knew it was as fast as I have ever been around this track” said Kasey Kahne. “I just think this car goes around the corner quicker.”
Fresh off his trip to Germany and Kuwait with the USO, Joey Logano is beginning to get used to his new surroundings, and it never hurts to have current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski as your new teammate with Penske Racing.
“He won the championship, so he’s pretty good” joked Logano. “It’s really cool to have a teammate that’s a student of the sport, who really studies it and will push me to do things differently. I think the coolest thing that Brad is able to do is he’s able to think outside of the box – like way outside the box.”
After potential record-breaking speeds throughout both test sessions, rain cut the afternoon short. Teams will have two more open tests before the beginning of the 2013 season starting with Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 10-12.
The sixth-generation car will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway Jan. 17-18, when the teams will have their final opportunity to test the car before Speedweeks in Daytona.
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