There will be no testing in 2009, other than Goodyear tyre testing, on racetracks that host events in NASCAR's top three touring series and Camping World East and West Regional Series, NASCAR president Mike Helton announced Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In a response to difficult economic times and to team owners clamouring for relief from the high costs of fielding race teams, NASCAR made its dramatic decision five months after floating the idea of unlimited testing in June.
Since then, more restrictive policies have been discussed, such as limiting testing to 24 or 16 dates per organisation per year. But the worsening economy, which impacts race teams trying to find full sponsorship for their efforts, moved NASCAR to impose the ban for 2009.
The cost savings to team owners could be as much as $1 million per car per year.
Accordingly, there will be no traditional Preseason Thunder test sessions at Daytona International Speedway in January. The policy severely limits tracks where NASCAR teams can test -- with Kentucky Speedway, Nashville Speedway and Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway now on the banned list -- and could prove a windfall for Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, which does not host NASCAR-sanctioned events in any of the affected series.
“There were a lot of variables that went along with this conversation,” Helton said. “Of course, one of them was the typical preseason testing that goes on in Daytona getting ready for Speedweeks. The ultimate decision was that the best-case scenario for this decision was no means no -- and to be applied across the board for the entire season.”
Kyle Busch applauded the decision.
“I think it's great,” said the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who has won eight Cup races this year but none since the Chase began. “We came out of the box strong and had a great racecar at the beginning of the season then we fell behind everybody else.
“We went and tested but didn't really learn anything from what we already had. Everybody else sort of passed us up a little bit, so we sort of need the testing now to catch back up, but I'm fine without it. Our stuff hasn't changed all year, and that's why you see us fall a little bit behind and kind of get surpassed by everybody. I don't know what else we're really going to learn, so they might as well ban it for everybody else.”
One driver who disagreed was two-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, for whom testing was an invaluable resource in competing for a third straight title.
“I think it's a mistake,” Johnson said. “I think the teams need a chance to work on their cars to improve their programs, to put on a better show. If we had this rule at the start of this year, with all the development work that needed to be done with the car -- not only for the No. 48 team but the whole series -- I don't think we'd be where we are today.