NASCAR WCUP: This is Only a Test - 'Not'
19 January 1999Number four in The New Deal series of six
HARRISBURG, N.C. - This is only a test. While those words may be appropriate for your local television station's emergency broadcast system, they are not for members of the Square D Racing team. Testing is their number one priority this off-season. The team needs to perform, and no one knows this more than the driver of the No. 55 Chevrolet - Kenny Wallace.
"Andy Petree (owner) and Jimmy Elledge (crew chief) sat me down when we started this deal and asked me where I wanted to test," said Wallace. "I told them we have no (car owner) points, so we need to test at the first four race tracks of the year."
Qualifying well and racing well at the first four races on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule is especially important for the newly created second team of Andy Petree Racing (APR).
As a new team on the Winston Cup block, the outfit has virtually no car owner points. Therefore, if the team were to struggle with any of its qualifying attempts during those first four races and ended up not being one of the 36 fastest cars, they would not be eligible for any of the seven provisional starting positions made available by NASCAR. The possibility of the team going home early would be a very real one.
For the first four races on the 1999 schedule, provisionals are allocated based upon a team's standing in car owner points from 1998. Having run just one race in 1998, the Oct. 17 Pepsi 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with driver Hut Stricklin, the No. 55 team only has 37 car owner points to its credit - hardly enough to be eligible for a provisional. Hence, the team's rigorous pre-season testing regimen.
"When we head to Darlington for the fifth race of the year, my car better be in the top-15 in (car owner) points," said Wallace, "or else I'm going to be very disappointed."
Entering this week's scheduled GM test session at Daytona Jan. 19-20, Wallace and his team will have already conducted two test sessions. One at North Carolina Speedway in preparation for the Feb. 21 Dura Lube/Big K 400, and another at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to ready for the March 7 Las Vegas 400. A fourth test at the fourth venue of the season, Atlanta Motor Speedway, is slated for Feb. 24-25.
"We've got to perform," said Elledge. "We're in a situation where we can't afford to have a bad day - either in qualifying or in the race. We need to qualify well to make the race. And we need to race well to finish well, so that we gain as many car owner points as possible. That way, when Darlington rolls around, we'll have some insurance with us. Even then, I hope we won't have to use any of it."
Discovering what works and what doesn't work on the race car without having to deal with the pressures that a typical Winston Cup weekend has to offer is probably the biggest benefit to off-season testing.
"When we go to a test, we do everything we're not able to do on a race weekend," said Wallace. "We'll spend one day on qualifying and the next day we'll focus on our race setup. The two main things that we're looking to find are the proper car and the proper horsepower. We'll take two cars and decide which car is the better car, along with what type of motor combination suits that car best.
"Once we get that squared away, we take our Goodyear tires and figure out what kind of air pressures we need to start the race with. From there, we move on to shocks. What type of shim stack should we use? What's the appropriate bleed for the piston? We go through a systematic process in order to put the car into race trim.
"Anytime you can go test," continued Wallace, "and you've got your aerodynamicist saying, 'Try the spoiler at this angle with the fenders here,' and your motor man is saying, 'Try this carburetor with this intake and these gears,' it all comes together like an orchestra. Everybody's in harmony.
"If we do our job at the race track, we should be really competitive."
Square D Company, based in Palatine, Ill., is an industry-leading manufacturer of electrical distribution, industrial control and automation products, systems and service.