NASCAR is considering opening up its restrictive testing policy, which several teams already have skirted this season.
Currently, rules limit teams to seven tests on Nextel Cup-sanctioned tracks, and crew chiefs help NASCAR decide the venues and dates. NASCAR adopted that policy two years ago to help underfunded teams keep up with big-budget organizations, who could afford to test anytime.
But as the Car of Tomorrow was rolled into competition, the top teams found ways to test it outside of the rules.
"It appears that we've got teams that want to test more and teams that want to test less, and teams that test on tires that are not made by our tire supplier," Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"So we're going to start looking at a lot of different things, from eventually lifting the test ban completely, or get as restrictive as we cannot let teams test anywhere at any time, or land somewhere in between."
NASCAR most likely will relax the restrictions, because it's having a hard time policing teams. More than 20 teams tested Tuesday and Wednesday at Virginia International Raceway, a road course where they could simulate the June 24 race in Sonoma, Calif.
Because VIR is not a sanctioned track, any team can go there and still be within NASCAR's guidelines. But teams can't use current Goodyear tires because of a leasing agreement intended to prevent extracurricular testing. To circumvent the lack of available tires, teams have started using other manufacturers for test sessions. They also snapped up much of Goodyear's inventory from 2005 and earlier.
Goodyear officials declined a request from The Associated Press for comment Wednesday, and NASCAR said the teams have not technically broken the rules.
Hendrick Motorsports, winners of nine of the first 12 races this season, is believed to have lapped the field in testing this year. Team officials said they've used a variety of test drivers about 30 times this year, and rival car owner Jack Roush said that's unfair.
He said his own five-car team is behind the competition, because he didn't purchase tires from Hoosier or B.F. Goodrich for tests.
"The teams that have been successful ... they've gone to tracks outside NASCAR's control with tires that were not from Goodyear," Roush said. "Right now, Goodyear is sitting on millions of dollars worth of tires that are growing obsolete and hard in their warehouses. Teams have gotten around NASCAR's policy by buying other people's tires and testing at tracks that aren't on the Nextel Cup schedule.
"I got behind on that. I didn't do that."
But using tires other than what Goodyear provides on race day is a crapshoot, many crew chiefs said.
"Relaxing the testing policy only makes sense if we can use current Goodyears," said Mike Ford, crew chief for Denny Hamlin. "You can really end up going pretty far down the wrong road that way, but you have no choice because everyone is doing it."
Hamlin tested at VIR on "some really old Goodyears," but Ford said it was only the second time this season the No. 11 team has gone outside a NASCAR-sanctioned test. Joe Gibbs Racing's research and development team has tested cars at various times independent of Hamlin's team this year.
Ford said he believes NASCAR's prohibitive policy created the testing problems.
"They are forcing teams to spend money with other tire manufacturers instead of with Goodyear, the company NASCAR supports," he said. "One way or the other, everybody is going to test."
Story Courtesy: AP Wire Reports