Sprint Cup drivers getting accustomed to raising (and lowering) the bar in NASCAR with new device

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It’s not surprising that some drivers are having a problem getting on track at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

We’re not talking about actually getting on the 1.5-mile racing surface, but rather some are struggling more than others with the new rear track bar control switches in their Sprint Cup cars.

As part of the new aero and horsepower package, NASCAR put track bar control in the hands – or at the fingertips might be a better way of saying it – of the drivers.

Several drivers offered thoughts Friday on the new levers that allow manual manipulation of the track bars from the cockpit, and some found humor in their latest accessory.

“Every time I reach for mine, I miss it, and it takes about half the straightaway to find it,” Kasey Kahne quipped. “Mine’s off to my right … it sits on the right side of my leg brace. Push it forward and it goes up, pull it back and it goes down.

“It’s pretty easy, I might put my finger on it and hold it for a second or so and it’ll move a couple tenths or a quarter-inch or so. It’s pretty quick. You can move it a good bit down the straightway. I messed with a little bit yesterday. I don’t know if it helped or hurt. There are times where I thought it helped and there were times where I definitely know it hurt.”

Danica Patrick said she experimented with the track bar control “all day” during a test last August at Michigan International Speedway. She did not use the device during Thursday’s practice sessions but planned to get acclimated to it during the rest of the weekend.

“To be getting after the track bar and things like that, it would have I think confused me more on what the adjustments did,” said Patrick, who is familiar with similar devices from her IndyCar career. “At the point where we going to try to make a long run before we went into trying a qualifying run, I was going to use it on a long run, but I only probably only did six or seven laps, and the car wasn’t quite good enough to stay out there. I thought we needed another adjustment so I decided to come in.

“I’m comfortable using it, and I feel like everyone will use it quite a bit at different points like pitting and restarts. There’s a lot to think about there. I’m interested to see how it will work, to be honest.”

Patrick likes having extra control of her car but said it might lead to less passing on the track in the long run.

“It’ll make the drivers happy,” she said. “Trust me, when you’re really loose or really tight, you really want to fix it. I’m sure it’ll make us more comfortable.”

Daytona 500 pole-sitter Jeff Gordon is taking more of a wait-and-see approach.

“I was talking on the radio to them (and) was hitting that button as well,” Gordon said. “That’s the only time I’ve used it so far. I’m not really one to be big on moving the track bar around. It’s nice to have a tool (but) it moves very slow. It’s not a tool you can use every corner. It is nice to have.

“Some tracks you’ll adjust different than others: Setups … shocks, springs, cross weight, all those things we have going on. I’ll let you know how we play around with it. (Crew chief Alan Gustafson) hasn’t given me any guidelines, no. We’ll do some runs tomorrow where I adjust it.”

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