Crew chief David Hyder and the rest of the Wood Brothers' Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford team head to Texas Motor Speedway this week anxious to take on the challenge of running a Car of Tomorrow on a superspeedway with a spoiler instead of a wing on the back of the car. Even though the Woods and Hyder are running a limited schedule this year, they'll be in the same situation as full-time teams when it comes to this week's race.
The first two runs with the spoiler came on the half-mile at Martinsville and the mile at Phoenix, meaning that this week's Samsung Mobile 500 will be the first high-speed test since the spoiler replaced the wing. Hyder and his crew say they're fully prepared. "We've got a brand new car - C-24," he said. "It's a sister car to the one we ran in Atlanta and we had good success with it at the end of the 2009 season at Homestead." Hyder pointed out that after a strong finish at Homestead, the crew reworked that car and carried it to Atlanta only to struggle in the early practices and in qualifying. But they learned a lot and were in better shape after Atlanta's Happy Hour practice. "We came up with a pretty decent race set-up for Atlanta," Hyder said. "We took some of those same things and put them in C -24 going to the Charlotte test last month."
Since Texas and Atlanta are similar in that they both have rough track surfaces, Hyder incorporated parts of the Atlanta set-up and added some of what the team learned at Charlotte and created what they believe will be a potent chassis combination for Texas. He also had to account for a new fin on the rear window that puts more rear side force in the car. To top it all off, they used three sessions in the wind tunnel to give the No. 21 Ford Fusion its final tune-up before heading to the track. "We've thrown everything we can at it, to take the very best piece we can to Texas," Hyder said.
There were no multi-car runs made during the Charlotte test, so this weekend's race at Texas will be the first opportunity for the Woods' driver Bill Elliott and his peers to see how the spoiler affects the cars when they're running in a pack. Hyder said that even though there hasn't been much noticeable difference at Martinsville and Phoenix, there very well could be at Texas. "The way the air comes off the back of the car with the spoiler, versus the wing is going to be totally different," he said. "I think you're going to go back to seeing more of the aero push in the front of the car when you get behind somebody tucked up tight. "I think the drivers need to be prepared to see a lot of different things happen when they get tucked up together."
The Woods and the rest of the Cup teams also will have to be prepared for some strategy decisions at the end of the race. With the way Sprint Cup races have been ending lately, with a late-race caution setting up a short sprint to the finish, teams must decide whether to keep their track position or pit for fresh tires. At Martinsville and Bristol, drivers who gave up track position for four tires stormed back to win, with Jimmie Johnson taking the win at Bristol and Hamlin victorious at Martinsville. But at Phoenix, race leader Kyle Busch took four tires at the end and wound up eighth, while Ryan Newman, who got track position by taking just two tires, wound up the winner. Hyder said he believes his team's best bet it to hold on to its track position, especially since they tend to run better at the end of a run than they do when the tires are new. "I'm going to take track position over four tires when it's green-white-checkered," Hyder said.
The Samsung Mobile 500 begins on Sunday, April 18 at 3:00pm on FOX.