Still working today on the 'Car of Tomorrow'

Associated Press • Mar 30, 2007 at 1:09 AM

MILWAUKEE - Lest we forget, NASCAR's new car remains a work in progress.

Yes, the now-misnamed "Car of Tomorrow" underwent five-plus years of design, preparation and testing that eliminated many of its potential problems, but three hours of racing around Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday exposed still others.

Several teams saw springs collapse, inexplicably they say.

Denny Hamlin felt the effects of carbon monoxide.

Brian Vickers drove as his feet burned, and protective foam in the doors of several Roush-Fenway cars melted from hot exhaust.

Consequently, the most important lesson learned during the debut is that there's so much more to be learned.

What's next? Martinsville Speedway surely will turn up a few more issues this weekend. Phoenix and Darlington and Dover, the bigger tracks, will raise yet new questions. Then the road courses and the superspeedways and the mile-and-a-halfs will provide challenges of their own.

Right now, none of the drivers really likes how the car feels compared to the previous Nextel Cup Series model, and fans weren't happy with the boring Bristol race, during which the cars were spread out more than usual. But let's not forget yet about the difficulty of passing caused by "aero push" or about the 2005 Bristol parade in which Matt Kenseth led for 415 of 500 laps.

"It's going to make it more difficult for the driver and the teams to get this car hooked up, but if it makes for better racing and more entertainment then I think it's good for the sport," four-time champion Jeff Gordon said, looking into the future.

"If this is what we're going to race, then we're going to go race it. It doesn't matter whether we like it or not."

And you know what? With a little patience and a little persistence, the teams and NASCAR and all their engineers just might find a way to work out the existing bugs and those that are still to come.

Perhaps this will prove to be a lemon. Maybe it'll turn out just fine.

It's just too soon to tell.

Time to step back: John Force and his NHRA team are skipping Houston this weekend after the death of driver John Medlen last Friday from a head injury suffered in a crash during testing.

The team says it will work with the sanctioning body to determine the cause of the blowout that led to Medlen's accident and will attempt to improve safety in the cockpit of its Funny Cars.

Taking shape: A few pieces of the Champ Car puzzle fit together this week as the series speeds toward its April 8 season opener:

The renamed Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing finally confirmed that Graham Rahal would join three-time defending champion Sebastien Bourdais.

Mario Dominguez, fired by Forsythe last year after repeated crashes with teammate Paul Tracy, returned to the team for at least the first three races.

Tell and show: A street-legal Acura will be converted into a Sports Car Club of America-legal racer Sunday as part of the SCCA Milwaukee Region's annual car show.

In the course of about 4 hours, Jessica Chuang, a licensed SCCA tech inspector, will install a roll cage, safety belts, a racing seat and window net. The show is to run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at David Hobbs Honda, 6100 N. Green Bay Road.

It's a date

The annual "Millers at Milwaukee" vintage event, which pays tribute to famed designer Harry Miller through an on-track exhibition of early Indy cars, is set for July 7 and 8 at the Milwaukee Mile.

Cool-down laps: The often troubled French Grand Prix has been suspended for 2008, with its organizers saying, "conditions for success were not met." . . .

The season finale for the Mid-American Stock Car Series is scheduled for Oct. 27 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, the series' first road race in two years. . . .

The Interstate Racing Association sprint-car tour has become part of the ASA Regional Racing program. . . .

Canadian Andrew Ranger is the latest open-wheel driver working on a move to stock cars.

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