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NASCAR's opening laps with the new spoiler are fairly uneventful, but......

  Kurt Busch: cars are slower on the straights but maybe faster through the corners, with the new spoiler (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   NASCAR's first big test of that new 'old' flat-blade rear spoiler, Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, continuing into Wednesday, didn't offer any great surprises, and no big packs of drivers.
   And drivers generally seemed pleased with their first few runs with the flat spoiler rather than the wing that has been used the last three years.
   Kurt Busch, who is on a hot streak with car owner Roger Penske, winning at Atlanta and dominating Bristol, said "I was expecting a little looser race car, after what we tested at Texas with the new spoiler in January, during those tires tests.
   "But things don't seem terribly different overall, though, except for more drag on the straights.
   "The biggest thing is just to thank NASCAR for letting us come out here and test. It will take a great deal of time to get that 'feel' in this thing.
   "The car is driving very well, it's very stable. The car does have a lot more drag, but we should be able to maintain good speed through the corners."
    However Kasey Kahne pointed out that Goodyear has new tires here "so I don't know if what I'm feeling is the tire or the car."
   Goodyear's Rick Campbell: "This is the same right-side we've been racing here; there is a new left-side construction that tested well in October....obviously tested with the wing back then. But the tire testing we've done to date says that there is no major reaction for us from a tire standpoint is looking like the way to go. And any tweaks we may make to the left-sides won't be based on the spoiler."
   Busch pointed to another issue: "The tach – we're running 9200 RPM now, and we've been running 9400. So NASCAR will have to think about the rear-end gear, and figure out how to match the new spoiler with the gear.  Speed versus the drag. (NASCAR in fact changed the rear end gearing Tuesday afternoon to bring those RPM back up.)
   "But the car feels stable, and that's a thumbs up.
   "It's finding stability on corner-entry, then the middle of the corner. And we'll move around there, depending on what we think NASCAR might do with the gear rule; if they keep this gear, you'll see a lot of guys running the high-groove.
    "Corner-exit pretty much takes care of itself."


   Brian Vickers' crew working at Charlotte Motor Speedway, during Tuesday's first major downforce test of NASCAR's new flat-blade spoiler (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Part of the issue here is testing itself. NASCAR last year banned testing at NASCAR tour tracks, as a cost-cutting measure. That ban came just a few months after NASCAR had been close to new rules opening up testing. So one debate in the stock car garage has been is the testing ban good for competition, or has it hurt competition overall: and should NASCAR open up testing again. Last week teams got a rare test at Talladega; this week they get a rare test here, at this 1-1/2-mile downforce track.
    Are more such tests in the future this season?
   That may be part of the debriefing later this week – how much did these tests help the various teams?
   The most visible issue, though, is the new 'old' spoiler replacing the wing.
    "What was missing with the wing was the side-draft," Busch said. "We'll see more side-by-side racing with this package.
   "When we first got the wing, I suggested we add a little 'spoiler' to the wing, to get some draft; they said they'd look at it...but here three years later we're going back to the (flat) spoiler."
     Kevin Harvick, the Sprint Cup tour points leader, says he likes the look of the flat-blade over the wing.
    "The first thing we need to do is make these things look like a race car, make 'em look cool and fast, so it's appealing to the eye. And I think the car looks a tremendous amount better.
     "And then we need to figure out why the cars turn over, and how to keep them from flipping over. I think everyone is working hard to find the solutions there.
    "To me today was just getting comfortable with the idea that the new spoiler wouldn't be a drastic change.
   "What it does in traffic is what it's going to do. It's hard to simulate with just eight to 10 cars (here0. The biggest thing is going to come when they drop the green at Texas and we see how these cars race around each other.
   "Here, us drivers aren't seeing a huge change....because the guys have done a lot of the hard work in the wind tunnel and on the seven-post simulation. We're just going through a checklist, doing things we normally wouldn't be able to do in a 90-minute practice during race weekend.
   "When you have something that's really new, you're shooting in the dark, and that's pretty fun, you get to try different things.
   "But we're not seeing any huge changes.
   "We've never this car without the wing; but from the driver's seat there are not a lot of differences in characteristics.
   "As far as how the racing will go, no way to tell until Texas (April). The biggest variable in our sport is the tires; Goodyear has done a good job with the tires, but when the compound and design changes, that can force us to change the setups. When the tires make you a second a lap quicker, that changes a lot of things."
    On a side not, Harvick, who last week raised a little storm with some biting comments about Carl Edwards on a radio show, Tuesday took a quick shot at the media:  "You guys want it both ways. You want us to give us our opinion, and then you bury us when we do, to make everybody look as bad as possible. 
   "I have an opinion on a lot of things. You say something...and it goes as far as people want to take it. So I don't read anything you guys write...."
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   Bristol's two best cars, in the last race with the old wing, Kurt Busch inside, Jimmie Johnson outside. And how will they fare this week at Martinsville with the new spoiler? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Harvick needs to grow the

Harvick needs to grow the hell up.

I cringe whenever I hear "the car is slower on the straights but faster in the corners" because it's misleading. Actually it's the same speed as before in the corners; they're just better able to go open throttle through them because they're slower on the straights.

"We'll see more side by side racing with this package." We'd better. Close up the gapped nose and it will be even better.

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