NASCAR focuses on potential aero changes in Charlotte test

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With an eye toward improving the racing on their intermediate tracks, NASCAR ran through a series of aerodynamic changes during a test session today at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Six teams took part in the session, which was delayed by rain and continued past sundown.

Drivers included Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski, Wood Brothers Racing’s Trevor Bayne, Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray and Michael Waltrip Racing tester Brett Moffitt, who filled in for MWR regular Brian Vickers after the latter’s announcement of him sitting out the rest of the year due to the discovery of a blood clot in his right leg.

“Our objective is to shake down some potential changes for the 2014 season,” NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development Gene Stefanyshyn said in a statement from the sanctioning body. “We will be doing this on an ongoing basis, with an eye to continue to improve our product on the track. It is really an exercise in continuous improvement.

Three different aero configurations were run during the session. Reid Spencer of the NASCAR Wire Service reports that the list of variables tested included changes to the front splitter, rear spoiler, back bumper and ride height, as well as the addition of a wicker bill across the roof of the cars.

Echoing Stefanyshyn’s thoughts on “continuous improvement,” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton indicated that the Charlotte test was focused on raising the competition aspect following the teams’ transition phase over to the new Generation 6 cars this year.

“As everyone knows, we did an unbelievable amount of miles last year testing many different configurations,” Pemberton said. “Our goal was to hand the car off to the teams better than the one that they ended the 2012 season with. We feel like we achieved that goal; we feel like the cars performed well, the drivers like the way the car drives.

“From that standpoint, it was a successful year…We will always continue to evaluate our competition and this is one of those programs that’s coming together.”

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.