RICHMOND, Va. -- NASCAR rolled out the first Car of Tomorrow for the Nationwide Series on Monday as it started two days of testing at Richmond International Raceway, and the COT's debut drew positive reaction from drivers for its handling and sporty look.
"I think it looks pretty cool," said Carl Edwards, only 14 or so hours after he won the lastest Nationwide Series race on the 0.75-mile oval of Richmond International Raceway.
"I hadn't seen the car all finished and sitting on the ground. It's good. It drives really well. It feels a lot like the car we're racing now. Compared to when we first ran the Car of Tomorrow in the Cup series, this is a lot smaller change for us to go to this car," he said.
Edwards and Roush-Fenway Racing teammate David Ragan were among the drivers testing a Ford Fusion, although the model of cars that the manufacturers will use in the Nationwide Car of Tomorrow has not been announced. David Reutimann was testing for Toyota. Other drivers on hand included Scott Wimmer and David Stremme for Cherolet and Bryan Clauson for Dodge.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR'S vice president of competition, said the governing body hasn't finalized a start date for the COT in the Nationwide Series, but said it likely will be 2010.
"We're giving everybody ample time to build and develop their cars," he said.
Among the goals for the car, he added, are incorporating the improved safety features of the Sprint Cup version of the Car of Tomorrow while keeping the two distinct. The Nationwide version, for example, will use a conventional spring suspension instead of bump stops.
Because of the significant setup differences, "You're not going to come from the Cup garage like in years past where you bring your four springs and your four shocks and set 'em down in the Nationwide car and you go off and you dominate a race," Pemberton said.
He said the changes were not an effort to drive Cup drivers from the lower series.
"We hope that we can make it appetizing for guys to compete over there," he said.
Reutimann said he wasn't sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised.
"It doesn't drive as different as I anticipated it would," he said. "It certainly drives a lot different than the Cup car. It has a lot of promise. It's a pretty cool looking car."
One of the major complaints Cup drivers have about the Car of Tomorrow is that it makes hitting the setup a tough proposition. "That car is definitely tough to get perfect," Edwards said. "If you get it perfect, you're great, but if you don't, it's a real struggle."
With the lower horsepower COT, the setup won't be as critical to handling, Reutimann said.
"I think this car will be a little more forgiving. The sweet spot will be bigger," he said. "Hopefully it will because a Cup car can be miserable to drive if you miss it."