The change to a radically different Ford Fusion has kept Wingo and his Wood Brothers crew especially busy, even during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, when teams typically take a few days off.
“For the first time in a long time I didn’t take a vacation,” Wingo said. “We didn’t even take the whole week of Christmas off. This is by far the most change we’ve ever had from one season to the next.”
With NASCAR officials being extra diligent in developing specifications for the new Gen-6 race cars, crew chiefs like Wingo found themselves working right up to the last minute before loading their cars for this week’s Preseason Thunder test sessions at Daytona International Speedway.
“NASCAR wants to get it right the first time with this new car,” Wingo said, adding that teams can either speculate what NASCAR will do and make changes to their cars or wait for the final rules to be released. He’s among those waiting for the final specs rather than guessing wrong on the rules. “You’ll stay behind if you’re constantly having to re-do things.”
The No. 21 Ford Fusion underwent its first wind-tunnel test just this week, and Wingo admitted it answered relatively few questions, since, “There’s really nothing to compare it to.”
For the Daytona test, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will utilize the chassis they raced at Talladega Superspeedway last fall. A number of changes have been made, however, including installation of a new 2013 Ford Fusion body that more closely resembles those on Fusions in dealers’ showrooms.
“The new bodies are going to appeal to the fans, especially those who are loyal to a certain manufacturer,” Wingo said, adding that this week’s Daytona test will go a long way toward determining how the new cars perform on the race track. “The car has less drag, but it also has less downforce – front, rear, and overall.”
With NASCAR utilizing emore body templates this season than ever before, teams can do very little to change the aerodynamic characteristics of their cars. As a result, It should become clear early in this week’s test which cars have an advantage heading into Speedweeks.
“You’ll know how you stack up after the first three hours of the test,” said Wingo, adding that he’ll have driver Trevor Bayne focus on single-car runs initially, with plans to do some drafting before the test ends Saturday. Only following drafting practice will drivers and teams know whether the tandem-style racing that has been commonplace at Daytona and Talladega in recent years will be feasible with the new cars.
Bayne and the team have been successful with that style of racing, as evidenced by their win in the 2011 Daytona 500, but that may not be a viable option this time around.
“It’s pretty hard to tell at this point,” Wingo said. “I’m not sure how the bumpers are going to line up, and the front ends are different for each manufacturer. We (also) don’t know how well these cars will push, but I’m sure people will be playing around with it.”