Though the rules package on NASCAR's 2013 race car is still a work in progress, Kasey Kahne is convinced that the new-generation car will lend itself to more exciting racing.
Kahne and six other drivers -- Jeff Burton, Brian Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Sam Hornish Jr., Joey Logano and Juan Pablo Montoya -- tested the 2013 cars Wednesday at Talladega Superspeedway, helping NASCAR establish baseline data for next year's restrictor-plate races, including the season-opening Daytona 500.
"Right there we had five or six of us there, and it was actually pretty dicey and pretty exciting," said Kahne, the only Chase for the Sprint Cup driver in the group. "With the car we have now, it's not quite like that. I think we're making improvements. We're definitely going in that direction.
"It's great from a driver's standpoint, because we'll be able to race and pass more, and it's awesome from a fan's standpoint, because they're going to get a much better show -- all the time."
The cars that will make their competitive debut at Daytona in February more closely resemble showroom cars than their current counterparts. The body styles of the Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry are stylistically much more distinctive than the relatively homogeneous vehicles introduced to Cup racing in 2007 as the Car of Tomorrow.
"The bodies are obviously different," said John Darby, NASCAR's managing director of competition. "It's a brand-new model change, and that carries through beyond just the aesthetics and the appearance of the cars. The car has a completely different aero signature than the car that we're running right now."
For Kahne, the difference on the race track was noticeable.
"I felt like you could get bigger runs on the cars in front of you," Kahne said. "There was three or four of us in line at the time, and you could still get a run on the car in front of you. That's something that we do not have right now, so I like that side of it.
"Pushing was definitely different . . . I think the shorter spoiler and the shape on the front ends of the cars -- it's not near as nice of a fit to the back to the car -- so they move around a lot more. That'll make it a lot more interesting. It was interesting with six cars, let alone 40. It'll cause some problems out there at times, I'd say."
Drafting in tandem with Burton, Kahne achieved a top speed of 204 mph and a fast average lap of roughly 197 mph at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
Teams will continue to test the 2013 cars as an adjunct to Goodyear tire tests at Texas and Phoenix and to open NASCAR tests at Texas and Phoenix, all coming before the end of the season. The next scheduled 2013 car test at a restrictor-plate track is the full-field Preseason Thunder at Daytona during the second week of January.
During Wednesday's test, NASCAR experimented with a variety of grille openings, ending with an inlet measuring 1.75 inches by 24 inches. The restrictor plate openings (29/32 inches) matched those used recently in competition at Talladega with the current car.