CLICK HERE to watch slideshow of Car of Tomorrow testing at BMS.
BRISTOL, Tenn. - By the time the sun rose over Bristol Motor Speedway, it was official - tomorrow was here.
Engines roared and cars circled the world's fastest half-mile for 12 hours on Wednesday as 50 Nextel Cup teams did their best to get the Car of Tomorrow ready for its debut at the Food City 500 later this month.
Despite drivers, crew chiefs, car owners and fans grumbling over everything from the added wing on the back of the vehicle to the financial impact of building a new fleet of race cars, Nextel Cup director John Darby said the time for debating is over - it's time to go racing.
"There still may be a lot of opinions about the car, but the fact of the matter is it's here on the race track and the sky hasn't fallen," Darby said. "Last I checked, the sun's going to set in the west and we're going to race."
Denny Hamlin was fastest in the morning test session, followed closely by Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
But the field was tightly packed as all 50 cars were within one second of Hamlin's lap time.
Among those having a rough start was Kevin Harvick.
The Daytona 500 champ struggled with a tight car for most of the morning and had to look hard to find anything good to say about the Car of Tomorrow.
"Got a lot more headroom in my car - feel good about that," he said. "It's just been a struggle for us. Our car is just not handling like it needs to be right now."
But Harvick insisted that now's not the time for complaining. Instead, his goal is to go back to the drawing board and find a setup that works before next month's race.
"I think most drivers have an opinion," Harvick said. "I think we all have opinions, but NASCAR didn't get where it was today based on all of our opinions."
As Harvick searched for answers, defending Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was pleasantly surprised when he saw where his lap times at a track where he's never performed well.
"When we unloaded, I went to the top of the board," he said. "I asked my guys to take a photograph of the computer monitor to document we were at Bristol."
While no one knows for sure what to expect when the green flag drops later this month, Jeff Burton guaranteed an exciting afternoon at the track.
"This race is going to be close no matter what," he said. "You could put 43 Volkswagens out there and you're going to have a close race."
The front splitter was a major question mark heading into the two-day testing session.
Nobody was sure how the splitter, which sits below the nose of the car and rides just inches above the surface of the track, would hold up after taking a beating on the concrete banks of BMS.
But according to Harvick, it passed with flying colors.
"We sat on it today, drug it across the race track," he said of the spoiler. "I think you can drag a lot. It's going to be pretty durable - they've definitely picked the right material."
Testing continues this morning at 9 and is tentatively scheduled to wrap up at noon. If the weather cooperates, drivers may opt to log a few extra laps in the afternoon.
Admission is free and concession stands will be open.