Slide job! Chevrolet's performance plummets in new Camaro
By MARK LONG
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Darrell Wallace Jr. has a proposition for the two guys dominating the NASCAR Cup Series: Swap cars for a race and see what happens.
Vocalizing what's been obvious on the track all season, Wallace said Thursday the problem with the Chevrolets is, well, the Chevrolets.
"My car handles way worse than (Kevin) Harvick or Kyle (Busch)'s car at 200 mph," Wallace said at Daytona International Speedway. "Just because the cars look the same and they all go through tech and everything, they are damn sure not the same.
"My car is not the same as any other 18 or 4 car. It would be interesting to say, `Let's swap seats and see how that goes.'"
Chevrolet has been mostly noncompetitive since Austin Dillon won the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. The American automaker hasn't been to victory lane since and hadn't really gotten close until Chevy driver Kyle Larson swapped the lead on the final lap with Busch last week at Chicagoland Speedway.
Meanwhile, Toyota and Ford have pulled away in the standings. Toyota's stable includes Busch (five wins) and defending Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. (three wins). Ford has Kevin Harvick (five wins), Clint Bowyer (two wins) and Joey Logano (one win).
For Chevy, it's been a bumpy debut for the Camaro, which replaced the maligned Chevrolet SS this year.
"A lot of people were pumped up about the Chevy Camaro, and we haven't delivered the wins that we thought our camp would this year as far as that goes," Dillon said. "We're working, though, as a group to get closer. Larson had a great shot at Chicago. That's positive. And hopefully we can figure out how to get the speed that his Camaro has shown all year."
Larson has been the lone bright spot for Chevy in 2018. The Chip Ganassi Racing standout has six top-five finishes, as many as fellow Chevy drivers and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott (four) and seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (two) combined. Elliott will race Saturday after suffering a sprained ankle this week.
"I think everybody in the Chevrolet camp is frustrated when it comes to not seeing the wins up on the board," Dillon said.
Chevy won 13 consecutive manufacturer championships in the premier Cup Series between 2003 and 2015. But Toyota and Ford have clearly closed the gap. The reason is complicated, but one Chevy believes it will be able to handle in time.
Chevrolet designed the Camaro to take advantage of NASCAR's previous inspection system of templates.
But NASCAR switched to a more precise scanning system this year, which erased some of Chevy's expected gains. Ford, especially those at Stewart-Haas Racing, improved the most from the change in inspection procedures.
Adding to Chevy's woes, NASCAR began enforcing a rule that requires front splitters to be completely flat. That tweak changed aerodynamics and caused the Chevrolets to plow through turns more than before.
Teams had been allowed to make their own splitters in previous years, and Toyota had been the biggest beneficiary of that rule in 2017. The Japanese automaker won 16 of 36 races, including the championship, last year.
But anything can, and often does, happen at Daytona.
Restrictor-plate racing is usually unpredictable, which is how Dillon led only the final lap in February and notched the biggest win of his career.
Chevy can only hope for some more luck Saturday night.
"It's a good feeling coming to the checkered flag and the entire field is behind you," Dillon said. "Anytime you can relive those moments, you try to. It's kind of like a dream. You come to the checkered flag and all you see is people behind you and nothing in front of you."
More AP auto racing: www.racing.ap.org
Updated July 5, 2018