I remember that, years ago, NASCAR’s testing policy was so liberal that, to me, it forced the Sprint Cup teams to spend much more money than necessary – and thus deplete their budgets.
In addition to testing at Daytona in January in preparation for the Daytona 500, NASCAR permitted teams an unlimited amount of tests each season. In time the only real modification it made was to restrict testing to speedways that did not hold a NASCAR event.
Didn’t make any difference. Team bosses and strategists reached the conclusion that if they didn’t test at least as many times as their rivals, they were going to be left in the dust, competitively.
So it became something of a competition – you know, see which team could test most often and thus build something of an edge at each race.
Teams actually created other internal teams with the sole responsibility of testing. No, I’m not kidding.
The “test” team would travel to a speedway taking with it a driver, cars, a hauler and full complement of equipment and crewmen.
Tests would last two or three days.
Now think of it. A full team spends several days at a speedway for testing. That’s exactly the same thing as going to a race.
And expenses? Imagine – including travel, food, housing, salaries, equipment and, in most cases, a track rental fee and funds for emergency vehicles and personnel – a team was spending as much money as it did at every race. Heck, maybe more.
A team that tested early in the week and then went to a race that weekend was spending twice as much money than if had simply gone to the event.
And, as it has always been in NASCAR, some teams had bigger budgets than others. Which meant they were certain to outrun their low-income rivals.
Now get this: Some teams actually asked NASCAR to find ways to lower the cost of racing.
I can remember sounding off during a broadcast of “Inside NASCAR:”
“You are asking NASCAR to cut your costs while you continue to fund special teams for the sole purpose of testing as often as possible? I asked. “Bah! Humbug!”
Of course I didn’t expect to have a profound impact on NASCAR, but I did have fun – and thought I made a lot of sense. Many agreed with me.
I do believe NASCAR saw the problems in unlimited testing and, over the years, has done much to correct them.
For example, it limited the number of tests to seven a while back. But even that wasn’t enough.
The sanctioning body has taken a big step for 2015. Last month in announced that all off-season testing was banned.
There would be three types of tests, NASCAR-approved tire tests, NASCAR tests and open-team tests.
Goodyear has scheduled 14 tire tests, most of which will be one-or two-day runs followed by a single-day team test.
Teams will be given a four-hour window for testing one day before the start of a track’s race weekend. The only exceptions have been Las Vegas this week and Atlanta in March. In all other cases the team test will come after the tire test.
There is no more pre-season testing at Daytona.
NASCAR believes teams will get more value out of testing because they will be doing it at the tracks on which they actually race. It will be in line with where they are going to be racing.
Sounds good to me. And it has got to be a heckuva lot less expensive.
But testing has now become doubly important, simply because there are fewer sessions, and time, in which teams can deal with changes such as less horsepower and modified aero packages.
On Jan. 19, the teams of Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger tested at Vegas. They agree that the ban on private testing offers new challenges.
“You’ve really got to take advantage of the tests when you get them and try to gather as much information as you can – hopefully it’s information you can use down the road,” said Kenseth. “For us, we didn’t run particularly well last year and we’ve got a new nose on our Camry.
“Given that and the changes to the aero packages we’re just trying to get it sorted out.”
“Every test you have is much more critical because you have so much less,” Keselowski said. “In our case it’s not so much about the car as it is the people.
“We’ve added two or three more people to our teams so we’re trying to get them up to speed.”
So it would appear that given the ban of off-season or private testing, what exists in 2015 has become more important than ever.
There are fewer tests. There are fewer days spent on testing. Given that, teams are challenged to get as much out of it all as they possibly can.