|"I'm real encouraged so far."|
“Our test is going pretty well so far,” said Earnhardt. “The cars drive really well. I know everybody is probably real curious about how we think the racing is going to go. It’s real early in the game, this is the first time I’ve driven the cars at all, (but) I’m really impressed. I really like the balance of the car, the downforce seems to be relatively good. The car has driven well for us today. We will just move through the next couple of days here and keep tuning; trying things and see what the car likes and doesn’t like. Hopefully, we’ll get some more testing in before the season starts so we can continue to understand. A lot of the rules and decisions that NASCAR is going to make on this car… some are finalized, some are not. It’s still a little bit of a moving target for the teams, (but) I’m real encouraged so far.”
Tuesday’s morning session included little or no pack racing, and while admitting that, “nobody was really in a competitive kind of atmosphere out there,” Earnhardt said he was encouraged with the handling characteristics of the new car. “I think that the car has really awesome potential,” he said. “I already like it leaps and bounds beyond the old car we ran. This car really gives me a lot of sensations that are similar to the old car that we ran four years ago, or however long ago it was.
“I’m trying not to get too excited or form too solid an opinion of the car. We have got a lot of things to learn about it. There are still some rules and things to be finalized and still a lot to learn. (But) I think it’s important for us as the drivers and the teams to try and help NASCAR as much as we can. We are all sort of working toward the same goal this week, trying to put a good show on.”
Earnhardt said changes mandated by NASCAR in the interest of increasing mechanical grip appear to be paying off.
“The rear camber is a big deal,” he said. “It’s going to provide a ton of grip being able to camber the right-rear tire more than we had in the past. I know that is a big advantage to adding grip to the car. The body on the car behaves better aerodynamically. We have a gigantic rear spoiler on the car. You can’t see out of the car very well, but that spoiler is doing a lot. NASCAR seems to think that spoiler is the one that is going to provide better racing. It definitely gives the car a lot more comfort and it does resemble what we ran many years ago. Those were some pretty good race cars back then.
“The car really drives down in the corner, turns in the corner and turns off in the corner good,” he said. “I really don’t miss all the stuff we were moving around in the back of these cars last year, I don’t miss any of that stuff. It did make the cars go faster, but they were a little bit more of a challenge to drive. The sensations that you got going off the corner crooked weren’t a lot of fun. This is awesome for me personally (because) I kind of like going in the corner with the car going straight, like it’s supposed to. I’m enjoying this.
“The COT was just frustrating for me,” admitted Earnhardt. “I had races where the car drove well and was comfortable, but I never really connected with that car from the very beginning. Personally, I didn’t like the car. I didn’t really appreciate it for what it was. The cars that you see in the garage, you will stand there and see Fords and Toyotas and Chevrolets driving by. It’s great because everything looks different. Everything is recognizable, instantly recognizable. You don’t have to think about the driver and the team itself to associate with a manufacturer. You look at the car and you can see it instantly.
“I can appreciate the cars for that fact. I’m not sure a lot of people realize how important it is having instant recognition (for the manufacturers in) our sport; how much healthier our sport can be with that happening. I like when you see a car and you can recognize it instantly.
“The car looks great,” he said. “It looks like a race car to me. I can get excited about that. I can get behind that.”