|Keselowski in the new Penske Ford at Charlotte|
In stark contrast to when the Car of Tomorrow first hit the track to the derision of nearly everyone who didn’t receive their paycheck from NASCAR, most seemed to singing from the same hymnal at the conclusion of the Charlotte tests. After some grumbling early in the year following initial tests of the new cars, most everyone now agrees the cars are a big improvement – beginning with the way they look.
"The cars that you see in the garage; you’ll stand there and see Fords and Toyotas and Chevrolets driving by,” said Dale Earnhardt. “It’s great because everything looks different, everything is instantly recognizable.”
“I think we now have three makes out here that my little boy at nine-years old can tell the difference between,” said Steve Letarte, crew chief on the 24 car who had Regan Smith filling in for Jeff Gordon during the test. “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.”
Kasey Kahne turned in the fastest time of the practice sessions, which were cut short by rain.
"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” Kahne said. “I just think this car goes around the corner quicker.”
Matt Kenseth was making his first laps in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. It will be interesting to see how Kenseth fits in with JGR. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin had been rather vocal about the lack of input the inexperienced Logano provided at team meetings, claiming JGR was basically a two-car team. Kenseth is certainly more experienced, but pretty quiet. He’s also had his share of run-ins with teammates, most notably Carl Edwards. Other than a missed shift that forced an engine change during the Charlotte tests, things went well for Kenseth, posting the second fast time overall. Hamlin, however, hit the wall when something broke in the front end, causing enough damage to end his test prematurely.
|New Penske teammates Keselowski and 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,” Logano said. “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.”
For his part, Keselowski, who played an important role in bringing Logano to Penske, had nothing but nice things to say about his new teammate.
“I think that Joey is an elite talent in this sport and if we can work together, that we will both be better,” he said. “I would rather finish second to him next year in every race -- and even the championship -- than to rest on my laurels, not get any better and the whole field does, and run fifth, 10th, 15th, 17th – whatever it might be – and beat him. I think it's that spirit that is gonna drive us to be the best we can.”
The teams now have nearly a month off from official testing over the holidays, before open testing resumes at Daytona, Jan. 10-12. In the meantime, many teams will continue to test at tracks not on the NASCAR schedule.