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Daytona testing could be a balancing act

Wednesday, Jan. 09, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Like many Sprint Cup Series teams, Michael Waltrip Racing faces a bit of a quandary entering this week's test at Daytona International Speedway.

For one, MWR wants to do whatever it can to pick up where it left off in 2012 and continue its success, which included driver Clint Bowyer finishing as runner-up to Cup champion Brad Keselowski.

To do that, the organization needs to get a good handle on the new model Cup cars that debut this season – cars which have not undergone very much testing.

"We need to go down there and start to understand the 2013 package. We need to understand how to gain speed and to keep the cars cool in the draft," said Scott Miller, MWR’s executive vice president of competition.

"We just need to start to understand how the 2013 cars work. We hardly have any miles on them. This car is a whole new beast for us."

There is a problem, however – common to many teams right now.

A late start to building the 2013 has left many teams with only a few completed cars on hand. While teams need to focus on both qualifying and race conditions to understand the 2013 car, the lack of car inventory leaves some teams questioning the value of drafting sessions.

"We will spend a lot of time on single-car runs and try and optimize our qualifying package. We will spend a minimal time drafting since our car count is very low," Miller said.

"However, drafting is important because we need to understand the cooling and the drivability of the cars in a pack."

The three-day test begins at 9 a.m. Thursday. If enough teams are willing to participate, NASCAR officials would like to see teams run in race conditions in the afternoon sessions.

"While everyone seemingly is behind and scrambling to put cars together and get to Daytona, and they are, there are reasons for it – to make sure we have brand identity, which was the method to the madness in this project – and to keep that level playing field," said former Cup crew chief and Speed TV analyst Larry McReynolds.

"I know people hate that saying, but as a crew chief, I lived through the years of rolling into a new season, of rolling into Daytona and getting our butts kicked because another manufacturer was superior."

Building back more brand identity was the top priority in the development of the new car but in doing so NASCAR must also keep one manufacturer from having an advantage over another.

"This new car will be the biggest challenge teams have faced in probably six or seven years because of the way the car will be set up," said former Cup champion Darrell Waltrip. "It's a totally different body style."

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