Hendrick edges with Car of Tomorrow

The Car of Tomorrow is no longer a mystery. Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway will be the final event of 2007 for the big COT.

updated: November 10, 2007 12:36 IST
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Fort Worth, Texas:

The Car of Tomorrow is no longer a mystery.

Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway will be the 16th and final event of 2007 for the big, boxy CoT, which will be used for the entire 36-race schedule in 2008.

A lot has changed since the new cars first ran at Bristol in March, including the attitudes of most of the drivers.

To say the least, few if any of the Nextel Cup drivers welcomed NASCAR's developmental project.

"Certainly, I was pretty disappointed at the beginning of the year, simply because we couldn't get the car to go," Greg Biffle said.

"Obviously, we're going back to Phoenix, where we ran terrible at the beginning of the year. But we also did at Loudon, and then went back to Loudon and ran in the top 10.

"Hopefully, we've made some gains on the car over the season, and that's really going to show up at Phoenix. So, we're kind of waiting to see how we're going to run there.

"But, if we run decent there, then that will be great for us. That'll be a huge improvement over where we started out."

Two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart said he never did get too down on the new car, expecting the teams would get it figured out.

"No matter what kind of a car it is, it still has four wheels and it's either tight or loose or sliding in a four-wheel drift just like all the other types of cars I've grown up racing with," Stewart said.

"It's just another race car.

"It obviously doesn't handle like the cars that we've had, but it wasn't designed to do that. It really hasn't been a big deal.

"I think it's shown as the year has gone on how professional these teams are and how quick they are to adapt to something new. I think that's the most impressive part of the CoT."

The seven-year project by the folks at NASCAR's research and development center in Concord, North Carolina was intended to wind up with a safer, more competitive and more cost-effective car. So far, the safety aspect has been the only one of those that has proven out.

It has cost Cup teams considerably more this year to build both the CoT and the older car, and the level of competition in the first 15 CoT races - the ability to pass and get the cars balanced - has been inconclusive.

The only team that really had the new car figured at the beginning was Hendrick Motorsports, which won the first five CoT events and has won eight of the first 15.

Most of the other teams didn't put the effort into developing the new car until after the season began and NASCAR decided to use the CoT full-time, beginning next year.

But five other teams have won seven of the last 10 CoT races, including Roush Fenway Racing (2), Joe Gibbs Racing (2), Dale Earnhardt Inc and Richard Childress Racing.

"We started out pretty far off, and we gained a whole lot on it," said Biffle, who drives for Roush Fenway.

"Obviously, Hendrick was the best in the beginning, and they probably still are, but we've certainly gotten a heck of a lot closer than when we started out," Biffle added.