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NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers — and Mark Martin — shake down new car at Charlotte

By Reid Spencer

Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR’s Nationwide Series drivers got their last chance at a dress rehearsal Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Wednesday’s two practice sessions were the final shakedown for the new car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which will race for the fourth and final time this year in Friday’s Dollar General 300 at Charlotte before becoming the series’ full-time car in 2011.

“All in all, the practices were going well,” said NASCAR Nationwide Series director Joe Balash. “I think a number of the teams were testing quite a few different items on the cars.

“I would say we’re very pleased with how the four events have gone so far for the Nationwide Series new car. We’ve had good turnouts at all four (practices), we’ve had very competitive races. … As far as the overall car processes going into next year, I don’t think we’re going to make very many tweaks at all in the rulebook, as far as the car’s construction and those types of things are concerned.”

One tweak that could come sooner than later is a change to the gear used at Charlotte. Cars were running closer to 8,000 rpm Wednesday, as opposed to a more typical 8,400.

“We’re showing about 300 or 400 rpm less what we would show normally,” said Justin Allgaier, fourth in the series standings and, as such, the top NASCAR Nationwide-only driver. “I don’t think it’s a matter of (wanting to go) faster. I think it’s just getting the engine in more of an operating range where we’re normally used to. When we do that, we don’t have to push it as hard.”

(Note: Gears for the new cars at Charlotte were changed to 3.70:1 & 3.60:1 with an optional gear allowance of 3.64:1).

Mark Martin spent Wednesday morning shaking down Danica Patrick’s car for JR Motorsports. It was the first trip in the new NASCAR Nationwide car for the series’ career victory leader (48), and it got his juices flowing.

“I haven’t driven one of these cars before,” said Martin, whose lap at 177.567 mph was fifth fastest in the session. “I’m friends with (JRM owners) Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Tony (Eury) Jr., and I thought this would be a good experience for me to work with them a little bit. It was fun. I really like to help when I can. It helps them and it helps Danica. They have some telemetry to look at now.”

“I had a lot of fun. I learned a little bit. My brain will be kicked into overdrive now on how to make this new Nationwide car a little better. I don’t have any plans to race one but any kind of challenge and anything that makes me think will make me a better driver in any car. It was a good exercise for the brain. And it will be fun to work with Tony and Dale and bounce the ideas off of them that I have. JR Motorsports has a good baseline for this new car and I feel like I was able to provide a good baseline on where the car was and how to improve it even more.”

Patrick took over for Martin just after noon and posted a best lap of 171.217 mph before the lunch break.

Though principals from NASCAR Nationwide teams met Tuesday morning at NASCAR’s Research & Development center, Balash said the majority of the time consisted of a marketing presentation by series sponsor Nationwide. Several competition details came out of the meeting—a limit of 10 certified chassis per NASCAR Nationwide car number, for example, but issues dealing with the NASCAR Nationwide points system and the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers’ eligibility of the series championship remain unresolved.

“It’s under a full review,” Balash said. “When we get to the right answer, we’re going to push some answers as soon as we can, but we’re not going to push for something and not have it be the right answer. We’ve taken a lot of suggestions from a lot of people, and now that we have those suggestions, we’ve got to work through the math and history to see what that looks like.

“We have never said that we’re not going to have double-duty drivers in the series, so the question is what type of format do you use to have double-duty drivers in the series. There’s a lot of suggestions and a lot of input, and we’ve got to work through those.”