CONCORD, N.C. -- Two races into the NASCAR season, the four Hendrick Motorsports teams have had a taste on how their revamped race cars will fare throughout the rest of the year.
The teams now all work with a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, an upgraded model from last year's Camaro that has more speed and stability. Jeff Andrews, Hendrick Motorsports' vice president of competition, said on Sirius XM the organization as a whole is really pleased with how much faster the ZL1 1LE model is.
However, since it's so early in the season, Andrews admitted figuring out the handle of the new cars is "a steep learning curve" and the teams need a few more races to really fine tune the schematics of the updated Camaro.
“When you’re working with a new car and a new body like that, you’re working with the balance of the car," Andrews said. "When I say the balance, it’s a trade off of front downforce, rear downforce and the level of drag that you have in the car to achieve that downforce level. That can vary greatly from track to track.
"Obviously, at Michigan (International Speedway) you want something completely difference than you might want in Atlanta or Homestead where the lap falloff is significant. … (Las) Vegas was the first downforced track for that, and we will have to learn quickly here, no doubt."
Andrews said how Chase Elliott, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman have performed in the first two races of the season have very little to do with the car itself, but more of some kinks in execution. However, he reiterated that a new model will be introduced for the 2021 season.
"We’ve just got a year with this race car, and actually just eight short months here until we get to November and time to race for a championship. We’ll have to learn very quickly about that car. We’ve been working very hard (and) putting a lot of resources into understanding what that balance needs to be at these particular tracks."
After the West Coast swing and heading to the Homestead, Florida and Atlanta tracks in March is where the teams will likely have a much better handle on the tiny adjustments needed with the new car, according to Andrews.
“A lot of hours in December and January went into this race car. We’re looking forward to getting back to the track this weekend in Fontana,” he said.
The Hendrick Motorsports teams will have their third test of the season this Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, when their cars hit the Southern California track at 3:30 p.m. ET. Fans can watch on FOX or listen on MRN Radio.