The first serious track test and development session for the 2013 generation of NASCAR Sprint Cup cars took place on Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with 16 of the current Cup drivers turning out to put the new hardware through its paces.
Brad Keselowski was trying out a Ford for the first time in his new Penske Racing car, after the team's decision to part ways with Dodge with whom they won the 2012 championship. Keselowski was joined by his new team mate Joey Logano, who transfers into Penske after finishing his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Logano's spot behind the wheel of the #20 JGR, Matt Kenseth, was also at Charlotte on Tuesday along with his new 2013 team mate Denny Hamlin. The third member of the JGR line-up, Kyle Busch, did not take part in the session.
Richard Childress Racing fielded Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon, while the Hendrick Motorsports squad was represented by Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Regan Smith.
Also present for the first of the two-day test were Juan Montoya (Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing), Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas Racing), Casey Mears (Germain Racing), Bobby Labonte (JTG-Daugherty Racing), Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports) and Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers).
"The cars drive really good," was the verdict of Dale Earnhardt Jr. "This is the first time I've drove the cars at all, but I'm really impressed. I like the downforce of the car, and the balance seems to be relatively good. The car drives well for us."
Better rear-end grip and improved aerodynamics got the thumbs-up, although the taller spoiler at the back attracted some criticism for limiting visibility. Grip was better and speeds faster in the colder morning conditions when the cars ran single file stints, while more race simulations in packs were conducted in the warmer afternoon temperatures.
"All in all, the feedback in the garage area has been very positive," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition after the first day's testing and development work on the sixth generation of Sprint Cup car, widely dubbed the 'G6'.
As well as a second day at Charlotte on Wednesday, there will be another two-day session at the same venue in January and an option to do more testing later in the month at Las Vegas before the Preseason Thunder session at Daytona that precedes the first Sprint Cup race, the Daytona 500, in February.