Click above for high-res gallery of the NASCAR Nationwide Series' new cars
Holy Schnikeys! Check it out, a NASCAR race car that actually bears a passing resemblance to the production car it pretends to be. Just like its big brother series, the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the newly minted Nationwide Series (formerly known as the Busch Series) is getting its own Car of Tomorrow for the 2009 season. The Nationwide Series cars, as you can see in our gallery below, will use more than just stickers to convince fans they're looking at a Dodge, Ford, Chevy or Toyota. The new cars, which will now share a 110-inch wheelbase with the Sprint Cup cars, actually have some definition in their shapes. Unlike the Sprint Cup cars, however, they'll continue to use rear spoilers instead of large rear wings. Based on the pics below, it appears that Dodge will be campaigning Challengers, Ford will use either the Taurus or Fusion, Toyota the Camry, and Chevy's choice is still unknown.
The Nationwide Series just finished its first day of testing the new cars yesterday at Richmond International Raceway and have rolled them out again for a short test today. Drivers and team owners appear to be enthusiastic about the new cars. That's a markedly different reaction than NASCAR got when it debuted the Car of Tomorrow in the Spring Cup Series, which was largely derided by drivers at the outset.
NASCAR Nationwide Series New Car Debuts At Richmond Test
New Car Gets Positive Reviews From Manufacturers, Teams And Drivers
Second Day Of Testing On Tuesday Shortened To Morning-Only Session
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 8, 2008) – Walking through the garage at Richmond International Raceway Monday morning prior to the start of the first official test session for the NASCAR Nationwide Series' new car, Joe Balash, the series' director, was told he looked like a "proud papa."
Balash was overseeing another moment in series history that has taken place in 2008. The season kicked off with new sponsor Nationwide Insurance on board. Last month in Montreal, the series competed on rain tires for the first time in NASCAR national series history. And Monday, the new car made its official debut.
"This is a new project for the Nationwide Series so there's an unknown until you get (the car) to the racetrack," Balash said. "Now we have it at the track and it's been very well-received."
The four series manufacturers – Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota – were represented by five teams. Bryan Clauson was the first driver to take a lap for Dodge and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
David Ragan and reigning series champion Carl Edwards for Ford and Roush Fenway Racing; David Reutimann for Toyota; Scott Wimmer for Chevrolet and Richard Childress Racing, the defending series owner champion; and Morgan Shepherd for Davis Motorsports also turned laps throughout the day.
"Going through the garage area and speaking to some of the drivers, the input I got was the car was very good," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "A couple actually said they wished they could race this new car tomorrow."
Differentiation and uniqueness are the name of the game going forward with the introduction of the new car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The main difference between the current NASCAR Nationwide car and the new car will be the chassis and the body. The current chassis has a 105" wheel base. The new car will be a 110" NASCAR certified chassis, which is the same as the current NASCAR Sprint Cup car. This will also allow current NASCAR Nationwide Series components to be brought forward in an effort to contain costs.
The new car will provide the same safety enhancements that are in place on the current NASCAR Sprint Cup car and will also make more bolt-on parts interchangeable (for example, rear end housing), creating cost savings for the teams. Additionally, the new car will continue to use the rear spoiler whereas the NASCAR Sprint Cup car has a wing.
"We're still walking down the path of certifying the bodies for the cars in the Nationwide Series," Balash said. "The manufacturers haven't made their official announcements yet on what body styles they'll have once we get to the race track."
Cost containment and competitive balance are also keys for the introduction of the new car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. "As we build cars, we want to make sure we don't draw something up on the drawing board that's hard to manufacture," said Brett Bodine, NASCAR's director of cost research. "If that's the case, the cost goes up to produce these cars. As they build these cars – these are the first ones built – we're listening to what they've got to say from their fab shops. This is the kind of interaction from a small group of people like we have here today that helps makes the process a lot more efficient."
"So far we've been pleased," said team owner Johnny Davis. "With more testing, we can be pretty close (to the multi-car teams). I think a smaller, single-car team under these circumstances can be a better top-10 car than what we have today with our current cars."
The drivers at the test also gave the new car a thumbs-up.
"I'm excited about the car," Wimmer said. "(There are) a lot of real positive things right now. We've been running through the normal things we do at a test and it's responding well.
"I think they've got a real good mix here," he said of the climb through NASCAR's national series ladder system of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "It's going to be a good middle series car to get you ready to get in the Cup cars."
"The car's been good and it looks pretty cool, too," Edwards said. "I was impressed. I hadn't seen the car before it was sitting on the ground. It drives really well; it feels a lot like the cars we're driving right now. Compared to when we first ran the new car in the Cup Series this is a lot smaller change for us. I'm happy with it."
Tuesday's second day of testing has been re-scheduled for a morning-only session since the data gathered Monday by the manufacturers and teams was sufficient. The threat of rain in the afternoon was also a factor.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series new car is also set to test at Lowe's Motor Speedway Oct. 13-14.