|David Green tests a new Monte
Carlo. DILIP VISHWANAT/TSN
Madison, Ill. (Aug.
Opinions were divided over the 2000 Monte Carlo
among the nine Winston Cup drivers who began two days of shakedown test runs for the new
car at Gateway International Raceway on Monday.
It's not that anybody voiced disappointment in the new car,
although some in the Chevrolet camp are less than optimistic about what to expect from it;
rather, the drivers' opinions varied regarding what was to be gained from the tests on the
"We're not going fast enough here to do much of an aero
test with 'em," said Ken Schrader, a native of nearby Fenton, Mo., who drives for
Andy Petree Racing. "It's all chassis stuff. It has nothing to do with the new body
Sterling Marlin, whose Team Sabco was one of three teams with
old and new Monte Carlos at the track, said he couldn't tell much difference between the
'99 and 2000 models. Jerry Nadeau, testing for the Hendrick Motorsports team, which will
employ his services next year, preferred the new car, wasn't sure if the new body shape
should get credit for that.
"The new Monte Carlo is real stable, real secure,"
Nadeau said. "I don't know if it's the body or just two different race cars."
It's much like any other in-season or between-season testing,
according to seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.
"We're really not doing anything to run faster,"
Earnhardt said. "You try to establish a baseline, then go through changes with other
cars -- adjusting, searching, tuning."
Other drivers on hand for the test were Mike Skinner,
Earnhardt's Richard Childress Racing teammate; Steve Park of Dale Earnhardt Inc.; Bobby
Hamilton, Morgan/McClure Motorsports; Geoffrey Bodine, Joe Bessey Motorsports; and David
Green, Larry Hedrick Motorsports.
"This is our first test" with a new Monte Carlo
model, Bodine said. "It's a brand new car, underneath the new body and all. I'm
really quite pleased with it. It's been consistent."
Bodine is one Winston Cup driver who has experience on the
Gateway track, which is not on the Winston Cup schedule.
"We ran in the Busch Series race, but you can't compare
the Busch car to a Winston Cup car," he said. "They don't have the downforce we
Bodine said his team had already made some progress with its
new Monte Carlo.
"We've made some chassis adjustments, and we'll try some
aero adjustments, with fenders and so forth. All within the rules, of course," he
said. "The new car feels really great to me. Really stable. This car feels a lot
better than the Busch car, but that's not a fair comparison."
Green also gave his new ride high marks.
"There's a lot to be gained (from the test)," the
former Busch Series champion said. "The car really turned good. The front downforce
The new Monte Carlo was originally scheduled to debut in
competition in May, but NASCAR officials conducted extensive testing of prototypes of the
car to ensure that it would not be superior to its competition, the Ford Taurus and
Pontiac Grand Prix. The approval process took longer than expected, and Chevrolet
officials decided to postpone the new race car's introduction until next season.
Skinner said the version of the car which finally obtained
NASCAR approval won't be much better than the current Monte Carlo.
"The new car seems to be tighter getting down in the
corners," Skinner said. "I don't see any big magic. I don't see any big
difference. With the '99 Monte Carlo, we're qualifying pretty much on the level of the
Pontiacs and the Tauruses. It seems like the long runs is where we need a little more
total downforce, and we hope this car will give us that."
Two days of shakedown runs, the drivers agreed, won't give
teams all the answers they're looking for in the new car, especially on a relatively flat
track. Several drivers suggested that the new car, which has been tested at high-speed
superspeedways and shorter, flat ovals, needs a shakedown at an intermediate, banked
speedway such as Lowe's (formerly Charlotte) Motor Speedway.
At any rate, Skinner said, "It's gonna take some time to
develop the car. The designers did a great job with the car, and then when NASCAR got
through chopping it up, we were right back to the drawing board."
Drivers agreed that the Gateway track is a good one for the
"First time I've ever been here," said Marlin, a
two-time Daytona 500 winner. "We'll probably test a lot of stuff here."
"It's a good place to test -- good grip," Nadeau
said, noting that the asymetrical oval, with a tight, slower-speed Turns 1-2 and a more
sweeping, faster Turns 3-4, presents more of a challenge. "If you're good in 1 and 2,
you're gonna be loose in 3 and 4," he said.
The Chevy drivers were unanimous that Gateway would be a
suitable track to be considered for a Winston Cup race date, although they noted that the
track would need more grandstands (it presently seats about 80,000) and several said they
wished the track had been built with identical corners rather than the irregular oval
shape. Earnhardt said Cup teams would probably utilize overdrive transmissions and shift
to a lower gear in the slower Turns 1-2.
"If they'd just widen out that end," Earnhardt
said, nodding toward Turns 1-2. "But we'd adapt to it. They (NASCAR) assign the date,
we go race."