Jeff Burton's #99 Roush Racing Ford team spent yesterday at VIRginia International Raceway with their first 2004 specification Taurus to be track-tested, looking at various options for their road-racing brake package in advance of the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup championship.

Burton did back-to back comparisons of different brake calipers while circulating the 2.25-mile VIR North Course. According to crew chief Paul Andrews, this is catch-up work from the 2003 season.

"There are two different types of brake calipers we wanted to try," he said, "and another manufacturer's come along with a new one they're thinking about building, so we have their prototype for that. We just want to see what kind of things we can find."

The team usually tests a couple of times each year at VIR, which is just a two-hour drive from their shop in Concord, N.C.

"VIR is a great place," Andrews said. "We love coming here. It's obviously a real nice facility, and it kind of helps us a little bit with both road courses that we run, Watkins Glen and Sears Point, so it's a good place for us."

Andrews also feels that it is important for the team to test frequently during the winter, helping to keep everyone's skills sharp and minds working.

"What's good about testing in the winter is that it keeps your driver really in tune with what's going on, and keeps all your crew members thinking about the race car instead of having to get cars built in the shop," he said. "Having to get cars built in the shop is a necessity, but it also doesn't help you run very good sometimes. You need to keep the ideas flowing."

The testing pace will slow little over the holidays. The NASCAR Nextel Cup Ford teams have new cylinder heads, new noses and new tail sections to test and perfect between now and the time that the trailers are loaded for the season opening Daytona 500, which is 60 days from today.

"We've got a lot of work to do," said Andrews. "Plus, NASCAR's changed a few rules on us again, tightened up the tolerances on some of the templates, which made us cut up a lot of our bodies. But we're looking forward to all of that."

The car being tested today was the team's first 2004-configuration Taurus to hit the track, Andrews noting that all other testing for next year had taken place in the wind tunnel only to date.



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