tampabay.com

New test policy a concern to some

By BRANT JAMES
Published January 12, 2006


DAYTONA BEACH - Two-time Nextel Cup series runner-up Jimmie Johnson said although he sees the reasons behind NASCAR's stringent new testing policy, he thinks it will undoubtedly prevent teams from putting their best possible product on the track.

Instead of allotting multiple-day tests to be used where teams wish, as in the past, NASCAR will hold five three-day, all-team tests, such as the one this week and next at Daytona. Las Vegas, Richmond, Charlotte and Homestead also will host tests. Those tracks present a cross-section of the tracks that comprise the 36-race schedule, but teams cannot focus on a track where they struggle unless it is in that group.

"If you're off on a certain program, if it's road course racing, if it's short track, whatever it is in the season and you want to go make your team better, you're really limited to how you do that," Johnson said. "I personally am not a huge fan of this new testing plan that's taking place. I understand the reasons behind it, but I hate that if a team is in need, they can't go out and try to better themselves.

"It's very tough and when we show up and we have a couple hours of practice, you're not going to try new things to develop your race cars. You're going to come with what's known, and if it's 20th place, you hope that week it's 15th and you do what you can to make small adjustments and make the racing go on from there. So if you're off, I don't really see a lot of chances where a team can pinpoint their problems and work through them."

Teams also have to figure out their setups for Talladega - the second restrictor plate track on the circuit - at Daytona although the tracks have many differences. Though aerodynamics play a large part in the racing at both, Daytona requires more attention to handling than its larger sister track.

"Daytona and Talladega are two different animals," said Robbie Reiser, crew chief for Matt Kenseth. "When it comes to speed they are basically the same. When you're working on qualifying, it doesn't matter, if you're finding speed at Talladega, you're finding speed at Daytona. When we get into drafting practice and we get into handling and stuff like that then they are two different tracks. That's where you hear a lot of guys say they bring different types of cars to Daytona then they do to Talladega because once you get 30 laps into a run, the car definitely handles differently at Talladega than what it does at Daytona."

Kenseth posted the fastest lap (188.403) in the morning drafting session.

The rest of the Nextel Cup field will test Monday-Wednesday at Daytona.

CAREFUL: Rookie David Stremme somehow gets through the potentially hazardous stuff with ease - snowmobiling with teammate Reed Sorenson and boss Chip Ganassi in Yellowstone - but the mundane is rough on him. Angered that his yard maintenance company wasn't coming often enough to his Charlotte-area home, the 28-year-old took leaf blower in hand to neaten up his property but stepped in a hole and suffered torn ligaments in his foot. Stremme is wearing a cast, but expects to have it off before the season begins with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19.

GOVERNMENT WORK: Kasey Kahne is excited by the opportunity, but apparently has modest goals regarding his appointment by President Bush to a two-year term on the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.

"Seventeen of us are going to sit down and talk about different stuff and hopefully get to hang out with the President for five seconds or something," said Kahne, 25.