LOUDON, N.H. -- John Darby, NASCAR's Sprint Cup director, had a nice surprise for the series crew chiefs Saturday, offering them the opportunity to guide the sanctioning organization in setting next year's testing policy.
"NASCAR's the policy-maker, but one thing that's really reliant on the teams' input is what we test, how many times we test and where we test," Darby said after a brief meeting with the crew chiefs in the garage area at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"In the past, it's just been a matter of, 'Here, select your race tracks and let's go.' This year, I felt it was time that we just sat down with everybody and talked and said, 'Look, we're open to any suggestions you have,' from leaving our testing policy exactly like it was in '08, all the way to going to what I'm going to call wide-open testing, no limits -- any track, any week, any time, as many times as you want to go.
"We're prepared for either way, it doesn't matter to us. We'll listen to what all of the teams come back with for suggestions and formulate a test plan for '09 and go forward."
Darby said his offer was met with some disbelief from the assembled crew chiefs.
"There was a pretty good gasp of air when you got to talking about wide-open testing because the immediate perception is, 'Holy cats, we're going to be testing 38 weeks a year,' " he said.
NASCAR officially allowed seven open tests this season at tracks where the Cup teams race. The teams can also opt to hold private tests as often as they like at tracks where the Cup cars do not race.
"After you talk to everybody for a little bit and ask them to count the actual number of tests that they currently do, at all the places that they go to test, and apply that to a wide-open test policy ... there probably isn't a whole lot of difference at the end of the day," Darby said.
Darby noted that part of his thinking on this subject is the fact that testing at a track like Milwaukee to simulate racing at New Hampshire -- which several teams did -- would not likely be as effective as actually testing at New Hampshire.
"There still isn't anything as accurate as making laps on a race track and testing for multiple purposes," he explained.
Darby said he expects the crew chiefs to go back to their teams and talk to the owners and others in their organizations to come up with their own ideas.
"This is just food for their thought and I told them we'd get back together in a couple of weeks and see what kind of reaction we have and starting putting it together," Darby said.