Sun won't come out Tomorrow: Rain shortens CoT testing

Dave Ongie • Mar 5, 2007 at 11:21 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. - We learned two more things about the Car of Tomorrow in Thursday's abbreviated test session - it's not accident-proof and you can't drive it in the rain.

A steady rain halted testing after about an hour and a half, cutting short a two-day session at Bristol Motor Speedway during which Nextel Cup teams tried to learn everything they could about the new car prior to its debut at the Food City 500 later this month.

But the rain didn't come soon enough for Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer lost control of his No. 07 Chevy in turn three and went hard into the wall, earning him the dubious distinction of being the first driver to total the Car of Tomorrow on the high banks of Bristol.

"We broke our toy, so I guess we don't get to play any more," Bowyer said before packing up and leaving the track.

Everyone else was right on Bowyer's heels as the skies opened up and washed out the rest of the day's schedule.

Overall, the reaction to the new car was positive after Wednesday's 12-hour marathon session and Thursday's 90 minutes of track time.

"It has exceeded my expectations at this point," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "It actually drives better than our other cars do here. I am really pleasantly surprised."

Earnhardt wasn't alone in his praise, prompting Nextel Cup director John Darby to speculate that the Car of Tomorrow could become the car of today as early as next season.

"Could we be all in for 2008? I think that is very possible," Darby said.

Darby was quick to point out that the decision to run the Car of Tomorrow for a full schedule next year would have to be made by the owners and their teams, but he anticipates they will be in favor of the move.

"I think as time goes on, the volume of those cries will get louder and louder and we'd accept that with arms wide open," Darby said.

But Jeff Gordon recommended taking things slow until the new car saw some action under racing conditions.

"I think it's too early to commit to that," he said. "We have gotten to this point, now the next step is to put on a race."

For now, the focus of most teams is on surviving the Food City 500.

Brian Vickers, who earned Toyota its first-ever top-10 finish at California last week, said it's going to take teams a while to find a setup that works with the front splitter.

"It's going to take a different setup," Vickers said. "It's just going to take time for people to figure it out.

For some drivers, the answer is going back in time and driving like it's 1999.

Jimmie Johnson said his setup, which earned him the fastest time in the Wednesday night session, was from 10 or 15 years ago.

Kurt Busch said his team used Rusty Wallace's setup from 1999 as a starting point for his No. 2 Dodge.

"It definitely needs a unique setup to get around this Bristol track," Busch said. "Your old notes, the way I've won a few races here, you've got to throw all that out the window and start all over."

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