Volume II, Issue 3, Page 6

Dale Jr. Tests Impala SS Car of Tomorrow

The NASCAR Cup series takes to the big-banked Bristol track in the Food City 500 on March 25th. Recently Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the other Chevy Cup teams were testing at the wicked-fast track in the new Impala SS COT. He took time to give his impressions of it.

Drivability of the Impala SS at Bristol

Dale Jr.: It actually drives better than our other cars do here. The car is an inch wider; it has a little more grip. I am pleasantly surprised, really. It has exceeded my expectations at this point about how the car is driving. I anticipated it to be a little more of a struggle to get the car to turn, to work, to get it up off the corner. Out laps times are comparable with the other chassis we have been running here the past couple of years. I think we are ahead of the game a little bit, as far as I thought we would be, we are ahead of that.

How racing will be at Bristol

Dale Jr.: The cars are driving pretty good. The racing should be about exactly the same has it has been because the characteristics of the track won't allow it to be much better.

Differences in Impala SS today from his previous driving of it.

Dale Jr.: It is about the same really. We are going to have a lot of things to figure out when it comes to the mile and mile-and-a-half tracks, but here I was really surprised at how well the car drove here at this short track.

Different setups being tired during the test today.

Dale Jr.: There are a lot of things you can try with the bump stops and the splitter on the front. You have to do a lot of different things than you normally do. You can't just grind the [front] valance off like you used to, or run whatever spring you want. It is like an equation, you have to figure out what works with what. I enjoy the way my car drives. I think we can get it even better. A lot of guys are running really good which gives me promise that it will be OK.

We haven't went the way yet of a more conventional setup like the other cars, but we will try anything here while we are testing. A lot of guys are trying a lot of different things out there.

Does he feel safer inside the car?

Dale Jr.: Absolutely. I really do feel safer. The car has a lot of room in it. At testing, it is really aggravating to climb in and out of the car -- the old car. It was a struggle getting in and out, a real pain. This car, it is real simple. You can hop out even if you only have two minutes to get out; it is no big deal because you can get right back in.

But as soon as I sit down in the car, it feels like the same car. I can't tell any different. I thought it would take some getting used to but it doesn't."

Visibility with the rear wing?

Dale Jr.: I haven't put a lot of attention to that, but so far, I can see what I need to see.

Impala SS vs. Monte Carlo SS reacting to the high banks.

Dale Jr.: With the other car, you could just go down in there and slam on the valance and grind off the valance. With this car it slams on the splitter and
you slide and bounce; you have to get it off the splitter. You can't run on the splitter. You have to get it as close to the ground as you can; there is a fine line there. Any small adjustment or change might get you back on the splitter so you have to do a lot of reading of the data on the computer to see what the car is doing.

The biggest difference is you have a little bit more grip; other than that, it is very similar. The best thing about the car is the room. I like the car--here.

Will Phoenix be a tougher test for the Impala SS?

Dale Jr.: Phoenix will be a great test for these cars. That is a sort of flat race track. We won't have to be to worried about having to stay off the splitter like
we do here. Having the car travel so much like it does here at Bristol, and being on the splitter is a worry, because when you are on the splitter, the car is really hard to drive. At Phoenix, it will be a little easier to keep it off the splitter and run a little softer setup. When we get to the Michigans and tracks like that with this car, we will really be scrambling to learn as much as we can as fast as we can.

What about at Martinsville?

Dale Jr.: That is a good question. I think the tire will probably get in to the curbing first but you can hang that splitter on it too. It really doesn't matter. You can go in there and lay on it really hard and break it off and not have to worry about it. Aerodynamics there is no big deal. If I could, I would like to take my fenders off at the start of the race, which would really make it drive great.  


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