AVONDALE, Ariz. On the surface, General Motors' announcement it was dropping its support for the Pontiac Grand Prix on the Nextel Cup Series circuit next year seemed like a big deal.
In reality, it was little more than a formality.
The move will allow the car company to concentrate its efforts on one car, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Pontiac has struggled all year Ricky Craven has Pontiac's only win at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in March and no Pontiac driver is ranked among the top 20 in the point standings so moving over to Chevrolet probably is a welcomed relief.
All of the cars, including Fords and Dodges, are so similar that it's not going to take much to convert a garage full of Pontiacs into Chevrolets. In fact, the only significant change will be the front and rear bumper areas.
Because NASCAR has introduced a reduction to the rear spoiler for next year, every team will have to rebuild its cars during the off-season. With General Motors making the move now, it will allow current Pontiac teams to make two changes at the same time.
TESTING, TESTING, TESTING: Now that Homestead-Miami Speedway has been reconfigured for the third time in six years, NASCAR had to figure out how to conduct a tire test without giving any of the contenders in the points race an advantage.
Three drivers Dave Blaney, Johnny Benson and Scott Wimmer were picked because they aren't ranked in the top 20 and don't have ties to any of the championship contenders.
The speedway did away with the six-degree banking that didn't promote side-by-side racing. It was replaced with a variable-degree banking 18-degrees along the inside groove, 19-degrees in the middle and 20-degrees near the wall that should make the racing a little more compelling.
Benson said the two bottom grooves were fast and comfortable during their test.
''It isn't too bad,'' he said. ''I don't think any of the drivers here today have ventured up to the third groove, but we have run the lower and middle grooves without problems.''
PIT STOPS: The wildfires in Southern California have forced a postponement of Sunday's season-finale for the CART Champ Car World Championship Series at California Speedway. If Call Wells can find a sponsor, he'sexpected to add a second team, with Benson as the driver, to become a teammate to Ricky Craven.
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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