<
>

Drivers brainstorming ideas for improving Cup car

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Ryan Newman has a fool-proof answer for the problems with the new car.

"We just need two-day shows so we can spend one less day complaining," Newman said.

He was joking, sort of. But Newman, who starts on the pole for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 Saturday night, isn't just complaining. He has specific suggestions to make this car drive better.

"We could change the center of gravity so the car corners better and won't be as hard on right-side tires," Newman said. "And you could change the splitter height so the cars [have more front-end] travel a little bit more and don't bounce as much."

Now you're talking. Several drivers this weekend gave constructive ideas for improvements rather than moan and groan without any possible solutions.

Only one problem: NASCAR isn't budging. Officials said this week that no changes are coming. It is what it is. Deal with it and fix it yourself.

And forget about any extra test sessions. NASCAR isn't giving in on that, either.

Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler practically begged NASCAR to let the Sprint Cup teams test at the 1.5-mile oval before the races there in May -- the Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600.

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage forwarded e-mails to NASCAR he received from fans who were angry about the boring race at TMS last weekend. Gossage also wants NASCAR to take action.

Nothing doing. No car changes. No extra testing.

Some drivers say more testing won't solve the problem.

"I don't think this is a testing issue,'' Biffle said. "It's the shape of the car and the aerodynamics it has because it's bigger. You can't change that without changing the car."

The problems with the car won't show up as much Saturday on the low-banked, 1-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway. This car has raced well on smaller tracks where aerodynamics is less of a factor.

But the Cup schedule has 11 more races on intermediate ovals -- six before the Chase and five in the Chase -- where the problems with the new car are magnified.

"It would be nice if NASCAR could help us out some," Kasey Kahne said. "I don't think you can go and test and throw something at it and think that's going to fix it. The problem is the front end. It's always sliding around."

These cars do not have as much front-end downforce as the old car, making them harder to turn. It has a front splitter, which the teams struggle to make work properly.

Veteran driver Mark Martin said he believes the splitter needs a major overall. Teams have trouble keeping it off the pavement.

"Without a question, raise the splitter up," Martin said. "The splitter is the only real problem with this car. A four-inch splitter [off the ground] was really way radical of a call by NASCAR. We could've had seven inches like the truck series.

"The rest of the car is OK. I don't know if I would do anything else. But it doesn't have enough front suspension. Giving up 50 percent of your front suspension is hard to get used to."

Part of that was by design. NASCAR wanted to place the racing back in the hands of the drivers. Theoretically, if the car is harder to drive, the better drivers will excel.

Kasey Kahne


It would be nice if NASCAR could help us out some. I don't think you can go and test and throw something at it and think that's going to fix it. The problem is the front end. It's always sliding around.

-- Kasey Kahne

"It's good that they're hard to drive," Newman said. "I don't want a car that is easy to drive. I'd rather have my talent be more important than somebody that comes in and has less talent, but is sitting in a good car and beats me."

But Newman said he feels there must be a happy medium that improves the racing while emphasizing driver skill.

"There are things you can do to make the car racier and maybe not quite as hard to drive," he said. "But it's up to the fans to say if the racing is better or worse. They're the ones who give us our jobs."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he can deal with a car that's hard to drive if it improves competition.

"It's important that we put on a good show and have a lot of side-by-side racing," Earnhardt said. "If we're not able to do that right now, we need to figure out how to fix it."

Kevin Harvick thinks people need to remember that the old car wasn't so great on the intermediate ovals, either. His message is patience.

"Those tracks are a little less conducive to the racing for whatever reason," Harvick said. "We had a tough race at Texas, but I don't think anybody wants to throw up a red flag. You can't just change things to change them. We've got to give it more time."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.