Hendrick: Improving current car a better option than COT

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Rick Hendrick didn't take NASCAR seriously when officials first talked about building the Car of Tomorrow.

Had he, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports would have tried harder to convince the governing body to improve the current car instead of constructing a new one.

"I made a huge mistake by not trying to lobby a little bit earlier, I guess," Hendrick said during Monday's COT test at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "I've always been against it, and I haven't changed.

"What we had put on a really good race [Sunday]. We could have modified the car we had if we didn't have any safety problems."

Monday's test was the first step toward implementing the COT into mile-and-a-half tracks next season. Although the cars have gotten decent reviews on short tracks -- 1.366 miles at Darlington and under -- and the fall race at Talladega Superspeedway, Hendrick believes the 1.5-mile tracks will create a different set of problems.

"I don't think we're through with the Car of Tomorrow," he said. "When they put them all out here together they're going to have to do a lot of changes and a lot of body work, and a lot of aero work is going to have to go on.

"I don't think you're going to be able to run these things stock like we're looking at right now."

Points leader Jeff Gordon, who along with HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson skipped the test to concentrate on the championship Chase that they have turned into a two-car race, agreed.

Gordon said the test is more for the sake of Goodyear designing a softer tire that will improve handling.

"And I think NASCAR needs to look at some things that need to still be done to that car to make it work well at this racetrack," he said. "So to me, that's not a test that's really giving us the information that we need for this track when we come back here next year."

Nextel Cup series director John Darby said getting the right tire compound is a priority. He hopes the compound Goodyear brought to AMS is a step in the right direction.

But Darby said NASCAR doesn't anticipate making significant changes to the car until it has gone through an entire season at all tracks next season.

"Let the car ride out through '08," he said. "Let the best race teams in the world adjust and tweak on it to the best of their knowledge. At the end of '08, we'll have time to sit back and see if there are any changes that need to be made."

That's fine with A.J. Allmendinger, who likes the COT better than the current car.

"I'm more comfortable in the COT and I don't know why," he said. "It has a higher center of gravity and dances around a little bit more, but I can control that. With the current car, I'm not really sure.

"Especially at a track like this, with how bumpy it is. I'm never sure if the car is under me or not. I feel I have more control with the COT."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.